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June again

Peter W Sheehan  |  03 May 2021

JUNE AGAIN. Starring: Noni Hazelhurst, Claudia Karvan, and Stephen Curry. Directed by JJ Winlove. Rated M (Coarse language). 99 min.

This comedy-drama, with an all-Australian cast and director (JJ Winlove), tells of an ageing woman, named June (Hazelhurst), whose life is ebbing away. June suffered a massive stroke that obliterated her memory, and the film opens with her in institutional care.

Unexpectedly, a period of lucidity occurs, but June can only remember what happened up to five years previously. She takes advantage of her change in memory to escape from her institution and make a run for home. When she finally gets there, she finds another family living in a house, that is no longer her own. Many things have happened in the period she can’t remember, and what has taken place in the last five years takes a lot of getting used to.

In the time available to her, June resolves to re-connect with her estranged children to try to salvage their ailing affairs and past investment choices, but also to rekindle some romantic moments from her own past. Karvan and Curry play her children Ginny and Devon. In June’s opinion, her son and daughter have not realised the potential she thought they had, and she offers advice, and takes action that complicates their lives. With dementia in the background, June knows she has little time to help. She does what she feels she must do, but the film makes it clear that well-meaning parents can also interfere.

The script associated with this film was written by the movie’s director, JJ Winlove, and this is his first feature film. The movie is comical, mainly dramatic, freely mixes sorrow with happiness in a moving and effective way, and has wide appeal.

The film screens at a time when other films are tackling the problem of dementia more intensely. Chief among them is The Father, which brilliantly addresses the problem of dementia in clinical close-up. In contrast to the sophistication of The Father, this film keeps the viewer emotionally involved by tugging warmly at the heart strings, and it explores a multitude of feeling states. It is sentimental in tone, not very clinical in its focus (long periods of lucidity in severe dementia are possible, but unlikely), and it explores what occurs through June’s confusion about how much past and present seem different to her. The movie aims intentionally to arouse family-friendly thoughts and feelings, and its sentiment strategy and plot-contrivances work surprisingly well. The cast performs with strength, especially Hazelhurst. As a respected character-actress, Hazelhurst delivers an impressive portrayal of a matriarchal June – convincingly distressed and permanently confused by what is unfolding around her in a world she feels is falling apart.

The values that typically accompany family-friendly interactions are abundantly communicated in the film. They embrace love, caring, empathy, self-sacrifice, understanding, the need for forgiveness, and the importance of leaving emotional space to facilitate insight into what good parenting can, and can’t, achieve. The plot device of partial memory-release is the mechanism, which Winlove adopts to convey the film’s core messages. Dementia is the background theme for message transmission, rather than the film’s chief concern, and witty scripting and moments of good situational comedy lighten the potential heaviness of its touch.

This low-budget Australian film is wide-ranging in its scope. In uplifting fashion, it embraces love and caring, and shows how significant they are for knowing how to cope with life’s sorrows and sadness. The film tells us to always look for happiness in the confusion and complexity of life, and explores what could happen when people are given a second (once again) chance.

Released 6 May 2021
Peter W Sheehan is an Associate of Jesuit Media


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