DISCLOSURE. Australia, 2020, Psychological case study. Starring Mark Leonard Winter, Matilda Ridgway, Geraldine Hakewill, Tom Wren. Directed by Michael Bentham. 84 minutes. Rated MA (strong sex scenes and coarse language).
Here is an Australian drama that demands attention and considered discussion. The disclosure is something we might not have expected, a four-year-old girl tells her mother about what the nine-year-old son of friends and neighbours has done to her.
In many ways, this film is a case-study. And, it is dialogue-driven, and could transfer easily and powerfully to the stage. The time span of the drama is limited, a visit from one set of parents to the other, words exchanged, anger expressed, hurt on both sides, threats . . .
The location is an outer suburb of Melbourne, filmed around Ferntree Gully, a comfortable home, grounds, swimming pool. The two couples are friends.
With a focus on sexual, sexualised behaviour, the film opens, during the credits, with one of the couples filming their sexual encounter. We see them naked at their pool. This sets a tone. Then their friends visit; there’s drinks, discussions, and challenges to each of the couples – but, also, challenges to the audience. Are Danny and Emily (Winter and Ridgway) right in believing what their little girl has told them? Should they go to Child Protection? Should they challenge Joel and Bek (Wren and Hakewill) about their own behaviour, the raising of their sons?
There are complications because Joel has political ambitions. Bek, on the other hand, who has had harsh experiences in her life, is both assertive and withdrawn, but also in absolute denial.
The audience shares the emotional experiences of each of the parents. The audience listens to the arguments put forward by each parent, and consequently is challenged to ask themselves what would they do in similar circumstances – how much the personal relationships would influence decisions, how much is demanded by the law, child protection, parenting.
A lot to take in and consider in the brief running time.
Released 25 March
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media