Australia, 1986, 78 minutes, Colour.
Michele Fawdon, John Clayton, Norman Kaye.
Directed by Bob Ellis.
Unfinished Business is a dramatic two hander film star vehicle Michelle Fawdon and John Clayton, veterans of Australian film and television. There is a good supporting role for Norman Kaye (an actor often used by Paul Cox) as well as a momentary but memorable cameo by Ellis himself as an odd-ball tenant in a block of flats. The film deals with middle-age, crisis, broken relationships, the unfinished business of relationships which were unresolved. It also dramatises questions of surrogacy and parenthood.
The film spends most of its time showing Michelle Fawdon and John Clayton interacting, intimacy, sexuality, honesty, lies, their using one another. The actors work naturally and even though the film is quite stylised and often very wordy, they nevertheless bring off the interaction quite well. Bob Ellis is a caustic writer and critic. He assisted Paul Cox with a number of his films in sharpening dialogue. He also contributed to such films as Newsfront as well as his autobiographical film, The Nostradamus Kid. He directed and wrote the thriller Warm Nights on a Slow Moving Train.
1. Work of Bob Ellis, his reputation? Writer, critic? His critical perceptions of Australian society, men and women, relationships?
2. The Australian flavour of the film, yet its universal appeal? Portrait of men and women? Middle-aged, crisis? Parenting and children?
3. the title - whose unfinished business? Why?
4. The strength of the film as a two hander, the quality of the screenplay and the dialogue, plausible and realistic, stylised? The drawing of the characters, the strength of the cast, their working with each other, sexual intimacy, tensions.
5. The accidental meeting at the railway station, the differing reactions? Their being glad to meet each other? The 15 years and its emptiness? The filling in of the story: Geoff as a young journalists, the invitation to London, his wanting to go, the love for Maureen, yet his not wanting to remain in Australia? Her coming from England, not wanting to go there, love for Geoff, the pregnancy, the abortion, her wanting Geoff to say he loved her?
6. John Clayton's portrait of Geoff: Age, appearance, weight, manner of speaking, his imitating the cartoon voice, sense of humour? The background of his relationship with Maureen, his marriage, life in America, star journalist? The home movies with his wife and children? The divorce? Living alone, the posters for the daily mirror and the tabloid headings? Devoted to his work, his hopes, restlessness?
7. Maureen and the fifteen years, working with polls and peoples opinion, interviewing people, getting to know how they lived? Marrying her boss, her declaration of her love for George? His age, the attempts to have children, wanting to have children?
8. Seeing George through Maureen's eyes? An agreeable elderly gentleman, going to the U.S., his phone calls to Maureen, his delight at the end with the baby - and audiences wondering whether he knew whether he knew if the baby was his or not?
9. Bob Ellis's cameo appearance as the eccentric tenant, his comments to Geoff, the phone call?
10. The afternoon together, the effect on each, sexuality, the possibility of love, the bringing up of memories? The puzzles about the past? Why the unfinished business?
11. The phone call, the meeting with Maureen, her proposal and deal? Her genuine interest - for George, for herself, as a way of saying sorry about the affair and the abortion to Geoff? The effect on him, feeling that he was being used? the details of the plan, her clinical approach? Going away together?
12. The five days at the holiday house, the setting, the house, their being comfortable together, the ordinary things? Their discussions, memories, shared interest, getting to know each other? Her clinical looking at her temperature and finding the right time? The attempts for her to be pregnant? The collage of their intimate scenes together - in the house, chatting, walking on the beach? The background of the classical songs sung by Peter Dawson to give a mood? The tension, the change of moods, up and down, like and dislike? Love and hate? Maureen and the sense of life within her? Geoff responding to it? The possibility of their marrying?
13. Geoff failing the test of his love for Maureen? Unable to settle down? Her love for George, her going away pregnant?
14. The year later, Geoff's visit, Maureen and George with the baby, the happy family picture, Geoff uneasy - yet holding the baby, playing with it?
15. What would happen in the future - as regards relationship with the child, Maureen and Geoff, George and his reaction to the truth? Audience surmises?