"Three Blind Mice"
in 51st BFI London Film Festival
by Richard Mowe
Unfolding over the course of one emotion-filled night during which three young Australian sailors confront their inner and outer demons, Three Blind Mice represents a confident and promising second feature for Australian writer, director and actor Matthew Newton.
The premise may have shades of Hal Ashby’s The Last Detail and clearly there’s an influence of John Cassavettes somewhere in the free- wheeling style, yet Newton, whose Leonardo Dicaprio looks give him a deceptively baby-face appeal on screen, knows how to handle his material as well as the ensemble playing of an astutely assembled cast.
The drama is heightened because the sailors are about to shipped off to the war in Iraq, and want to make some sense of their lives before leaving their home town of Sydney for the Gulf.
The trio has diverse personalities which give spark and freshness to the exchanges over only a few hours of shore leave. Newton plays Harry, the party animal and the life and soul of the festivities who, within minutes of hitting the hotel room, has hookers arranged for his mates. Dean (Toby Schmitz) has a fiancée and future parents in law to contend with while Sam (Ewen Leslie) harbors severe doubts about returning to the ship and takes up with a waitress (Gracie Otto, also the film’s editor) whom he introduces to his mother and grandfather.
The tensions between them become strained as the night proceeds with Newton’s sharp dialogue exploring themes of male identity, indoctrination, personal choices and, lurking in the background, an incident involving the abuse of disciplinary procedures on board ship.
The film twists and turns between comedy and drama in a way that keeps it from becoming marooned by the set-pieces while the performances right down the cast list and the writing are exemplary.
Although clearly anti-war in tone and sentiment Newton seems more interested in exploring the personal rather than the overtly political which gives his characters and narrative a universal appeal.
© FIPRESCI 2008