I saw this film yesterday at a regional film festival in Dubbo NSW. It is one of several Australian films (yes, it was shot in suburban Sydney!) in recent years, aimed at the American market. But it remains thoroughly Australian in its quirky, almost black humour at times.
The film revolves around the central character of Billy Conway and his dysfunctional family (in fact, all the characters seem a bit that way inclined...). It recounts his misadventures and disasters, from the opening scenes where he plays under the hose sprinkler on his front lawn while the next door neighbour accidentally incinerates himself, to the car accident which kills his sister and puts his dynamic & mischevious older twin brother Gene into a vegetative state. When he takes up with Gene's 'partner-in-crime' Doug, son of a neighbouring family, they accidentally kill HIS father as well... The lovely Geena Davis plays a convincing and at times heart-rending role as Billy's sharp-tongued mother Gloria, ably backed by some wonderful emerging new talent in 14-year old Harrison Gilbertson as Billy, and Harry Cook as the also-ran 'other' twin brother, Larry (whose performance is loosely reminiscent of Gabby Millgate's character Joanie in Muriel's Wedding... "Muriel, you're awful...").
The ensuing trail of accidents & disasters ("I'm not exactly a good luck charm," Billy tells Doug at one point) are actually woven between some moments of genuine pathos and depth. The consequent collision of guilt, truth and self-discovery prove to be just what Billy and his family need to move on.
There are also some humorous cameos, like the two policemen... who become more of caricatures as the film progresses. And never underestimate the potential of a bowling ball....
Quirky comedy, coming-of-age movie, nostalgia trip... this film crosses over between several classifications. It was a pleasure to watch, evoking as it did considerable laughter, some tears, and a good deal of hope... and some profound moments to boot.
I was surprised at the R rating, despite a couple of graphic scenes... perhaps the innate black humour was not understood by the classification board as well as the audience I watched it with.
It is the debut feature from Australian writer/director Andrew Lancaster. Accidents Happen was also runner-up in the Audience Award at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival and was included in the Official Selection of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.
I look forward to seeing more of some of the previously unknown new talent in this film.