Monday, October 22, 2012
Film Review: The Year My Voice Broke
Written & Directed By: John Duigan
Rating: (4/5 Stars)
Set in 1962 in New South Wales, Australia, this film opens on a light-hearted note and -- as one might expect -- turns a shade darker and more serious. On the cusp of puberty, Danny Embling (Noah Taylor of Shine and Red, White & Blue) falls for his childhood friend Freya (Leone Carmen). Meanwhile he struggles with raging hormones, bullies, and the tedium of small-town life.
Danny's rival for Freya's affections, Trevor (Ben Mendelsohn, of Animal Kingdom & Killing Them Softly), is an impulsive, slightly dim-witted jock. However, in a somewhat surprising twist, he earns Danny's affection by defending him from bullies and treating Freya more respectfully than one might expect.
This fairly predictable coming-of-age story is elevated by terrific performances by all three young leads. Noah Taylor especially shines. I also liked Danny's friendship with Freya, which shifted between the rough and tumble intimacy of childhood, sweet and tender affection, and anguished awkwardness. This took us into the territory of adolescence, sexual awakening, and first love in an honest and genuine way.
The cinematography is also lovely. Long, sweeping shots of rolling golden fields reminded me a bit of Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, though less artistic and polished. I also loved the close-up shots of the main characters, especially Danny. They spoke volumes, spotlighting the tangled anguish, hope, and longing of adolescence.
The Year My Voice Broke also touches on sexual double standards and the mean-spirited harshness and hypocrisy that sometimes festers in small towns. I challenge you not to cringe when a middle-aged man refers to a long-dead girl as "the town bike." (Apparently, she let all the guys climb on her.) I can't reveal more without spoiling the story. I'll just say that it was 1962, and the feminist movement would come not one moment too soon.
This is, overall, a predictable coming-of-age movie. However, I recommend it for the terrific performances by a trio of young actors and its nuanced exploration of youthful friendship and love.
Have you seen this? What did you think?