Looking for Grace (2015)


One of the classic tropes of Australian film is the random and ever-present potential for destruction represented by vast, empty, and untamed landscapes. It is sometimes shown, for example, as mystical power (eg: Picnic at Hanging Rock), dystopian violence (The Rover), terror (Wolf Creek), images of deadly bushfires or road-kill scattered over lonely country roads. Looking for Grace builds on this tradition and explores random destruction in a novel way by taking a simple plotline and splitting into separate narratives that converge with deadly force.

Five stories unfold in parallel as sign-posted chapters, each telling the same story but from a different viewpoint. The narrative arc turns on rebellious 16 year-old Grace who empties her father’s safe and hops on a coach for a heavy metal concert a few days from home. While chance plays a part, meeting a boy, losing her virginity, and being robbed is a predictable tale for many run-aways. What is not predictable is how the four other stories overlap hers. The unfaithful father seems more concerned about the cash than his daughter and the over-controlling mother is pathetically funny keeping up appearances in the midst of a missing person investigation. The doddery old private detective hired to find Grace (and the money) worries about the whiteness of his false teeth and says the most obvious things in funny ways. And there is the seemingly disconnected story about the road-train driver who bookends the film and ties five random tales into a single Aussie yarn.

The cinematography is superb and it carries the film. From lovingly long panoramic landscapes, to backlit gum trees, golden sunrises, the sharp detail of a furtive glance in shallow depth of field, the camerawork is beautifully crafted and quintessentially Australian. Acting is excellent although based more on good casting than fine performance – there is little room for character development in a film cut five ways. It is also deliberately slow in parts; rather than looking like parents in crisis we see dad’s clumsy preoccupation with his own guilt, mum’s growing anxiety about her marriage and looking good in gym wear, and Grace just takes her time like any teenager. Minor reservations aside, this is an engaging tale told in the finest Aussie tradition.

Director: Sue Brooks                                                                               3 half stars

Stars: Radha Mitchell, Richard Roxburgh, Odessa Young