The Waiting City (AUSTRALIA)
Next screening: Wednesday June 9 / 8.00pm / George St, Event Cinema 9
India seems to hold a certain attraction to Westerners unused to the chaotic bustle of the city streets, the huge divisions of class and wealth, and their culture’s underlying spirituality. For the Aussie couple at the centre of Claire McCarthy’s second feature (the first, Cross Life, featured at the festival in 2007), it takes a while for those charms to take hold.
Aussie Hollywood star Radha Mitchell plays Fiona, a hotshot lawyer who’s travelled to Calcutta with her chilled muso-boyfriend, Ben (Joel Edgerton), to rendezvous with their newly adoptive daughter. They’ve been waiting two years, and are understandably miffed when the adoption agency keeps delaying their appointments. But as in Australia, bureaucracy is bureaucracy, only more so, and in the anxious wait, unresolved relationship issues begin to emerge.
The Waiting City bares the stamp of someone familiar with India’s charms, quirks and relativistic sense of time – and it is: McCarthy spent months working in orphanages and Mitchell was raised in the Hindu-Vaishnavite tradition by her parents, but the narrative is uneven. For every astute moment of observation – mostly from hotel clerk Krishna, played delicately by Samrat Chakrabarti – there’s a jarring transition in the central couple’s relationship. Part of the problem is McCarthy’s overly vacuous dialogue, which, with all its, “well, you know,” daily-colloquialisms feels underwritten.
But the lensing by Denson Baker, using the RED digital camera, is exquisite, and, when not short-changed by the plot, Mitchell and Edgerton are believable as two ultimately vulnerable people, outside their comfort zone, searching to give their lives meaning.
Isabel Lucas also stars as an attractive ex-pat musician. [JB]