Ten not so Empty

July 15, 2008

Though it deals with a subject that has been overdone in Australian cinema of late, that of the dysfunctional family, Anthony Hayes directorial debut (scripted with Brendan Cowell) is the best of the recent spate of these films. The last of which was the turgid The Black Balloon.

Ten Empty is a much better effort. Referencing the socialist working class cinema of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, Anthony Hayes delivers a moving story of male non-communication, oedipal conflict and family break down. Excellent performances from Geoff Morrell and Daniel Frederikson anchor the movie in an Oedipal conflict of Zizekian/Lacanian dimensions. Elliot, a successful phallic pen salesman, returns to confront his Dad, who is fucking his dead Mother’s younger sister. The family ‘problem’ is with his Elliot’s younger brother Brett. Brett has entered a deep depression post his Mothers suicide, it is assumed after the infidelity with Dad and Mom’s sis, has sunk in his unconscious. Morrell’s Ross is the typical obscene father figure, that wallows in alcoholic excess and vitality. Elliot is a repressed, disciplined 30 something who it seems harbors a fancy for Diane, his mother sister. In keeping with the Oedipal triangle, Elliot starts fucking Diane’s pal Bernadette, as Ross denies surrogate sex with his Mother’s stand in. This is all complicated by Brett, who stands, one can postulate, for the Super Ego, the restrictive, punishing force. Brett is introverted, punishing himself and the family for the Oedipal transgression with the sister, and gets into self mutilation and extreme silent depressions.

The film, though a bit grim with its family tale at times, is actually realistic and well handed. The film is not Politically Correct displaying a nice male energy, and fortunately Brett’s ‘problems’ are quite and don’t get on the nerves, like that fuckwit from the Black Balloon. Supporting cast is good with notable turns from Cowell and Jack Thompson. All round a pretty impressive take on its subject matter. Head and shoulders above Balloon, Clubland, et al, the ‘difficult family’ melodrama tales shown in Oz films of late.

Hayes and Cowell should feel proud of themselves to make a film like this, in a non sucky way, with some true working class passion and spirit. Ten Empty proves to be a glass more full.

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