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Monday, 13 September 2010

Matching Jack

For her first feature film in over a decade, director Nadia Tass (Malcolm, The Big Steal) sets herself a hard task: a lightweight comedy about children with leukaemia. Fortunately, pre-teen Jack (Tom Russell) has a pretty good chance of finding a bone marrow donor, thanks to the otherwise dubious blessing of having a father (Richard Roxburgh) who’s spent the last fifteen years cheating on his mother with half of Melbourne.

The numerous scenes where Jack’s mother Marissa (Jacinda Barrett) practically goes door-to-door looking for a bone marrow match from her partner’s endless liaisons are the source of much of this finely balanced film’s humour. They contrast nicely with those involving Irish sailor Connor (James Nesbitt), whose energetic efforts to raise the spirits of his ill son Finn (Kodi Smit-McPhee) may prove more successful in attracting Marissa’ attention. This is a gentle film rather than a hilarious one, but its warm tone goes some way towards smoothing over the occasional clunky moment. A film this character-driven needs truly stand-out performances to hold it together. Fortunately, both Barrett and Smit-McPhee shine. They guide this film’s sometimes wobbly script safely home.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #481)

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