Australia, 1995, 95 minutes, Colour.
Jacqueline Mc Kenzie, John Lynch, Colin Friels, Deborra- Lee Furness, Robyn Nevin, David Argue.
Directed by Michael Rhymer.
Angel Baby won the Australian Film Institute award for Best Film of 1995. It also won Best Director for Michael Rhymer, previously a writer of thrillers like Deep Sleep. After Angel Baby, he went to the United States and made a number of film including the police thriller In Too Deep with Omar Epps and returned to Australia for an American-financed sequel to Interview With a Vampire, Queen of the Damned, with Stuart Townsend as Le Start.
The film starred Jacqueline Mc Kenzie and Irish actor John Lynch. Jacqueline Mc Kenzie had made her film debut in Romper Stomper and appeared in other films as Under the Lighthouse Dancing. She married and went to the United States and appeared in a number of films including Deep Blue Sea. John Lynch appeared in films like Cal and Sliding Doors and Evelyn. They won the awards for Best Actor and Actress.
The film is a courageous attempt to portray two characters with mentally disturbed psyches in a sympathetic manner. It raises the questions of their compatibility, their ability to live together, to form a household. It then takes up the important issue of pregnancy and the capabilities of the two to act as mother and father. This is especially strong as the man decides that they should go off medication. While he secured a job, he finally cannot stay at it and his wife collapses without her medication. They also try to do without an obstetrician, relying on a midwife. When this is too much for the woman, they have to take her to the hospital where she dies but the baby survives.
The portrayal of mental disturbance is interesting as it places the man and the woman in the context of a help group and a sympathetic doctor. The film also shows aspects of esoteric madness as the young woman gets all her messages from Ariel, the angel in Heaven, via the letters and answers of the popular television show, The Price is Right.
Colin Friels and Deborra- Lee Furness portray the brother and sister-in-law of the man, Colin Friels as sympathetic but not always understanding, Deborra- Lee Furness as much kinder and allowing them to live their lives. It is quite a moving film.
1. A sympathetic portrait of mental illness, of people, situations, ability and inability to cope? Eliciting understanding and sympathy from the audience?
2. The Melbourne settings, the city itself, buildings and homes, the Westgate Bridge, parking complexes? The contrast with the drop-in centre? The hospital? An authentic feel to this story?
3. The film's awards, the strength of the cast, the writing?
4. The title, the focus on songs concerning angels, "Special Angel", "Angel of the Morning"? Ariel and her presence to Kate, sending messages, The Price is Right and the letters and the questions? The baby conceived as a gift from Ariel? The ending? The live baby?
5. The opening with the group, the individuals and their particular problems, presenting them at the discussion group, seeing them together, on the bus, the centre? The effect of the sessions, Kate being introduced? Harry observing? Their interactions, wanting help and support from Harry and Kate? Helping them with the baby, having to take them to hospital?
6. Harry in himself, his illness, seeming to be able to cope, his medication? The opening, in the city, the rain, going to the centre, glimpsing Kate and attracted? Staying with his brother, his relationship with Maurice and his wife, his room, boarding? The times that he lived by himself? His seeing Kate, pursuing her along the street, in the parking lot? Their talk, her desperate need to see a television? His infatuation, falling in love? The detailed collage of their relationship? Their joy in one another's company, sexual relationship? The proposal, taking Maurice and his wife aback? The tension at the meal? His interviews for the job, promoting himself, the scenes of him at work, lacking medication, failing at his work, the superior asking him to leave?
7. Kate, her background, seeing herself as mentally fit, her illness, being pursued by Harry, allowing it, their talking, watching the TV, Ariel and the messages? Her interpretations? Moving in with him? Her dressing up for the visit to Maurice and his wife, the dinner, the tensions, the wife making her welcome? The discussions afterwards, the proposal? Maurice and his hesitation, his wife being more understanding? Setting up home, managing, living like husband and wife, the tensions, the lack of medication, Kate and her episodes? Their standing on the bridge and pretending to be birds flying? Her pregnancy, her certainty, no obstetrician, her statements to the doctor? Their having gone to a midwife?
8. Maurice against the pregnancy, his wife visiting and helping, her later discussions with Maurice?
9. Kate's collapse, the discussions with the doctor at the centre, the other doctors? Their decision, Kate and the group helping her for the birth, her illness, going to the hospital, Harry with her, the induced birth, her collapse?
10. The group, their help, the hospital, the birth scene? Harry and the impact of having the child? Kate and her giving life to the world while dying? The baby living?