on 13 June 2004
LD is an enchanting story of isolation & friendship, brought to us from Austalian John Duigan, director of 1991's masterpiece The Year My voice Broke, & 1989's Dead Calm. The story centers around 10 year old 'new to the neighbourhood' Devon, & 20 something 'trailer trash' lawn mower boy Trent, set against a magical & quite surreal backdrop of American middle class suburbia. The weighty & wide ranginig themes touched on, (class/ social politics, sexual repression & hypocrisy, paedophillia, violence & media induced paranoia / sensationalism, & lastly bigotry), are interwoven not only cohesively, but with great insight style & beauty. Capitalist values within a sort of 'redneck mentality', sums up the residents of the ironically named Camelot Gardens, an exclusive 'well to do' housing complex, where Devon has just moved to with her somewhat apathetic mother, & status obsessed father, who states, "the way I see it is- you got people that mow lawns & you got people that own em- & they aint never the same sorta people.." Stifled & lonely in the sterile environment, Devon lives in her own fairy tale world, filled with the obligatory fantasy elements of magic & witches. Her surpressed lust for life is let loose one afternoon as she ventures outside the high walls of the tightly secured & patrolled 'kingdom', with its uniformed houses, lawns, flower beds, sprinklers etc, all magnificently displayed in wide angle vistas through hazy sunlight, very Lynch-esque, with its juxtaposting of the seemingly orderly 'safe' suburban setting, against an underlying sinister tension. Outside she stumbles across the LM mans humble trailer dwelling in a forest clearing, & thus slowly begins the sadly misunderstood, but heartwarming & tender friendship between the two, that sees them on stolen moments & adventures, Devon experiencing the mischief & freedom sadly lacking from her self absorbed parents controll. What follows is secretive between the two, as the security guard warns Trent, "folks're nervous these days..you best keep to yourself.. if you know what I mean", as he continues to mow the lawns for the unappreciative & condescending residents, that bully taunt & blame him for any 'troubles' in the area. D & T find a deep connection in a world where they are the outsiders & have in particular one common 'mystery' experience that Devon holds dear.
As another reviewer mentioned, comparisons can be drawn to both A Beauty & Happiness, as similar issues are raised, although LD escapes all the bockbuster trappings of the former, and the more insincere 'attention grabbing' quality of the latter, & instead delivers a work of rare integrity & charm. I honestly cannot pick a fault here; the acting is flawless & Sam Rockwells (Trents') energetic performance steals the show. The storyline is well paced & moving. The cinematography with its combination of realism & surrealism, is simply enchanting & a joy to watch- loaded with symbolism; The slow motion close up of the lush lettuce leaf toppling down from the salad bowl, splashing beads of water sumptuously over the floor, as D mother has one of many 'quickie' sexual encounters with one of the local bullys; The white knee length socks with red ribbon trim left behind by D on her adventures, like a Hansel & Gretel / Red Riding Hood trail, with its connotations of childhood innocence & sexuality. The use of the American flag as a tragic symbol of a nation in 'ill health', & one of my faves, the use of Springsteens 'Dancing in the Dark', (that other side of America that speaks of freedom liberation & passion), as the two dance 'like no ones watching' on top of Trents batterd old pick up. And finally Devons midnight rooftop howl at the moon, as she discards her nighty in a display of unbridled abandon, - the camera following the white garment as it floats away against the light of the full moon.. Such qualities make it a film that can be enjoyed more than once, & reminded me of Neil Jordans 1984 'adult fantasy fairy tale' The Company of Wolves, with its take on girl to womanhood symbolism steeped in classic fairy tale literature.
The pace builds steadily to what culmanates in a finale (OH! & what a finale), that is both as tragic as it is uplifting, & as fantastical as it is believable.
This is truly a memorable film, worthy of all the festival awards it gained, including Cannes. Duigan has a gift for dealing with youthfull energy & innocence, conjuring up equal amounts of humour & charm. This is one of those 'lesser known masterpieces' that no one who enjoys film making @ its most sincere & tender should miss.
DEFINITELY WORTH OWNERSHIP.
I would also heartily recommend the equally brilliant The Year My Voice Broke & Walkabout.