“There are two types of magic. The kind that make things disappear. And there’s the kind that makes them turn up again.”
I took a bit of a risk in my interview with Max Currie when I said Everything We Loved “is the must see New Zealand film movie playing at this year’s Film Festival.” Thankfully I was right. Despite a micro-budget, the time pressure, a five year old in a lead role, production team members camping in their vehicles, director Max Currie has brought us a touching, moving and somewhat haunting psychological drama which leaves a long lasting impression.
We meet Charlie (Brett Stewart), a reserved man who is desperate to reunite his family. Once a travelling magician with his wife Angela (Sia Trokenheim-Cettina), he now lives in a rundown lifestyle block. Living with him is a young boy. For a brief moment we are made to believe it is his son Hugo. However a quick sequence of events establishes that Hugo is dead. The boy who is there is none other than Tommy (Ben Clarkson), a five year old whose face is all over the news; he was kidnapped. Things get heated when his wife Angela returns to see Tommy. She wants to call the police but Charlie persuades her that he can make them a family again. So begins a rather lukewarm illusion, one which could continue if all three of them move overseas.
Keeping a false illusion alive is a very dangerous game. When appearance vs. reality becomes blurred it can lead to dangerous compromises being made to keep the illusion alive. Every precaution is taken to ensure no suspicion is aroused. Tommy is not allowed to be seen much. However a heart in mouth moment comes as he runs onto the stage while Charlie performs the Zig Zag Girl illusion. “Put Mummy back together!” he screams fervently. Tensions get even higher when he starts playing with a young boy who was in the crowd.
What makes the film brilliant is that it never gets too complicated. It sticks to what works and does a great job with it. One element which I really enjoyed was exploring the mood of “Mommy and Daddy.” Even though a young “son” is present in their lives again, they are never completely happy; consequently they are never really sad either. For most of the film their moods are neutral. For those who have yet to see it, just watch very carefully and try count the number of times Charlie speaks in a genuinely positive tone or Angela smiles sincerely; there are plenty of attempted efforts to do so but it very rarely succeeds. Also, we know both adults do not mean bad. They are benevolent people who are prepared to sacrifice everything -even at the risk of going to prison- to be reunited as a family.
Five year old Ben Clarkson is a natural actor. How he managed to pull off such a sumptuous performance is something only he can answer. Alongside the persuasive, calculated Brett Stewart and an emotionally passionate Sia Trokenheim-Cettina there actually wasn’t much more needed than an odd character to appear every so often to assure us that these characters were living in reality and not some bubble.
Director Max Currie himself must be lauded for doing a great job at bringing everything together. For a film made with limited resources, some crisp cinematography, a poignant musical score alongside a smooth flowing story prevailed. Assisted by the brilliant producers Tom Hern (The Dark Horse) and Luke Robinson ( Evil Dead) the craft of making it the classic New Zealand film it is a lot easier.
I am prepared to forgive the minor shortcomings simply because I loved the film so much; the shaky cameras, the limited musical score and the botched effort to cover Trokenheim’s shoulder tattoo.
Everything We Loved is so far ahead of modern psychological dramas because it captures a situation so agonising to watch and makes it seem so real. From start to finish, we just want to see the reunited family smiling alongside each other, doing activities any young family would do. But we don’t, because it’s all just an illusion.