Australia, 1985, 90 minutes, Colour.
Nick Enright, Matthew Stevenson, Candy Raymond.
Directed by Kathy Mueller.
Breaking Up is a fine telemovie about contemporary Australian city life. It was one of a series commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for screening in 1985 Adapted from his own novel by Frank Wilmott, it was directed by Kathy Mueller, director of the very effective award-winning short about stress for Vietnam veterans, Every Day, Every Night.
The film is in the form of a diary by a teenager, Mark. He is played most effectively by Matthew Stevenson. Candy Raymond is also seen to great advantage as the mother. Nick Enright is the father who has a breakdown and is the cause of the marriage breaking up.
The film offers many school scenes in the vein of such films as Fast Talking, On The Loose, Crime of the Century. There are also excellent scenes of family life - both happy and harrowing. A stimulating telemovie.
1. The impact of the film? Its quality? Realism? Mirror of contemporary society? Emotional response? Insight?
2. The use of Melbourne, Melbourne locations, suburbs, school? Authentic atmosphere and attention to detail? The mood of the piano score?
3. An ABC telemovie? For what audience? Audience identification, empathy?
4. The diary format, Mark both acting and speaking? The audience sharing Mark's viewpoint, insight, limitations of understanding? His perspective on characters and events, and the audience sharing his coping and learning process?
5. The portrait of an ordinary family? Typical suburban family? At home, work, relationships? The tensions seer and unseen? Husband and wife and their relationship, relationship to their children? The boys relating to each other? School, friends? Crises and the handling of difficulties?
6. Mark as the focus of the film? School scenes, his diary and the quality of his voice-over? The comparisons between comment and action? His age, his relationship to his younger brother, liking him, supporting him, reassuring him? His admiration for his father though seeing him as a workaholic? Love for his mother? Calling him by their Christian names? The sharing at home, the work, mateship? Andy and the story of the rumour, his suspicions at school? The party at home and Lesley coming? His dreams and his being tormented about his father? His plucking up courage to visit Les and her uncle, his being frightened away? His father's accident, his reaction? The police arriving? The growing tensions, the visits to hospital, Mark's moodiness, not succeeding in his schoolwork? His worrying? His father going to Queensland, his anxiety, support of his mother, anger with his father? His father's return, the happiness of the visit - and the disillusionment of his going? The breaking up? His support of his mother, questioning her about going out to dinner? His relationship with his friends, at school, Billy, going to Billy's family and seeing their antagonism towards each other (and his comment: 'Why don't the families that beat crap out of each other break up?')? The final breaking up, visits to his father? The finale of happiness with Andy and his mother? A boy having to cope, grow up, the fairness of the pressures?
7. Alec as a man, his relationship with Jackie, her seeing him as unattainable, marrying him? His teaching profession, being called by his Christian name, his involvement with the kids, the causes at school, the criticisms at the staff meetings, active in all groups, camps? His relationship with his sons? The rumour about Lesley? The camp, the accident? His workaholic tendencies and his slowing down after the accident? Al most stopping? Sullen, mooching around home, spasmodic search for work, Jackie going to work again? His going to Queensland, sending the card, the bright arrival home, the happy reunion, his decision to live by himself, outings with the boys, the decision to remain away? His age, crisis? Preoccupation with time and what he was to do with it? An accurate portrait of mid-life crisis?
8. Jackie as seen by her son? As a good mother, friendship with her children? Her love for Alec, friendship? The surface and her later confession of reality? Alec's social whirl, parties for the kids from school? Audience seeing her from Mark's point of view? Her own perspective? Her comment about Alec's infidelity and telling her? The happiness, the accident and the tension, the visit of the police, the visits to hospital? Her anger at his going to Queensland? His return, the reconciliation, the depression at his leaving? Going to work, going out with the boss for lunch, her being truthful and direct with her children, the happy final sequence?
9. Andy - a nice young lad, his inventions, fears, relationship with his father, anguish at nights, walking in his sleep, the refrigerator, wetting the bed, needing mark, wanting reassurance? His direct way of speaking? His trying to assess what had happened in the family, wanting his father to stay, concerned about his love? His poor performance at school, being hurt? The finale with his brother and mother?
10. Ordinary homes and their pressures, marriage and making them work, working at family unity? Coping with collapse?
11. The picture of Melbourne schools, the good and the bad, the idealists, the realists, the kids and their attitudes to lessons, to each other, to the staff? The hard teacher and his humiliating the girl and making her cry, kicking Billy out, Billy's attack on him? The science teacher and her relationship with the kids dissecting the rats, the teacher ticking her off about her discipline? The sympathetic teacher and Mark's essay? Alec as belonging to this school staff? Staff meetings? Kids, their interests, socials, dances? The pros and cons of the education system?
12. Teenagers and friendships, interests, the dance, kisses, relationships, dropping each other? Kathy, Charlie and Billy? Billy and his cheekiness, tough with the teacher, being sent away, hanging around, at home, his putting his brothers and sisters to bed, the clashes, his parents hitting each other, a hard life? Lesley and her uncle, his abusing her, the calling in of the police?
13. A satisfying picture of contemporary Australia, values, hurts, longings?