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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Oyster Farmer
Directed by Anna Reeves
Image Entertainment, Inc. 07/05 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R - language, nudity

The course of love never runs true, it is full of fits and starts, rambles and fissures. This happens in families, marriage, and intimate relationships of all kinds. In her debut film, Australian writer and director Anna Reeves has fashioned an idiosyncratic story about a city slicker who lands a job in a small Australian town far from the busy streets of Sydney. He goes there to help out his sister who was seriously injured in an automobile accident. His impulse to take care of her financially so she will have no worries leads him down a path that is filled with complications. As we watched this funky film unfold, we thought of spiritual writer Jack Kornfield's observation "The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way. This simple and profound intimacy is the love we all long for." Yes, and much of the time we miss it or just let it slip through our hands. Oyster Farm is a cautionary tale that speaks softly, whispering in our ear that we must not let our egos get in the way of opening our heart to others.

Twenty-three year old Jack Flange (Alex O'Lachlan) has taken a job with some oyster farmers so he can be close to his sister Nikki (Claudia Harrison) who is recuperating in a hospital. Both of them are quite anxious about paying the bills for her expensive rehabilitation. That's when Jack comes up with the crazy idea of robbing an armored van. His desperation is matched by his creativity: he covers his face in a raspberry flavored mask and uses as a weapon a frozen lobster. Instead of fleeing with the $150,000, he mails it to himself at the place where he lives and works. His boss Brownie (David Field) is a crusty character who runs an oyster farm with his cantankerous Irish-born father Mumbles (Jim Norton). These two are quite unhappy with Trish (Kerry Armstrong), a strong-willed woman who runs an oyster farm next to them and seems to have a natural talent for the work. Only trouble is she happens to be Brownie's estranged wife who walked out on him and his chauvinistic ways.

Jack's troubles begin to multiply when the postman has a heart attack near the water and drops the mail into the bay. Then there's Pearl (Diana Glenn), the sexiest woman in town who wears drop-dead red shoes and other fancy footwear. She flirts with Jack and he is definitely interested in spending more time with her. But in the back of his mind is the thought that she might have found the stolen loot since she seems to be spending more money than anyone else in the small community. Jack's distrust is fed with some encounters with Skippy (Jack Thompson), an ex-Vietnam veteran who has a dark view of the human capacity for violence and deception. It turns out that Pearl is the daughter of a nasty and greedy man who has started his own sewage firm in the community.

Nothing earth-shattering happens in Oyster Farm and yet the characters find themselves taking some new directions in their relationships, and the spurs are a bath tub, a puppy, a father and daughter reconciliation, and a quiet moment of solitude on a jetty near the mangroves that turns into a passionate act of love. And then, of course, there is the matter of the stolen money. But who cares about that: there are other things that matter more to the writer and director of this film. Anna Reeves loves the scenery of Australia's wild places and she has a fondness for the eccentric characters who work the oyster farms. Her real joy is the magic moments when love blooms and turns things around. Donít miss Oyster Farmer.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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