Film Review: Emotion Is Dead

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, David Jobling, reviews the new feature film about South Australia’s iconic Holden Factory closure, Emotion Is Dead.

Emotion Is Dead is a locally made independent film directed by Pete Williams who introduced it to the packed audience at its launch on Friday 28th of June at the Capri Theatre, calling it “the most South Australian story ever”.

That may be, but this gritty feature film reminded me very much of the wave of independent Australian films in the early 1980s – including Going Down directed by Hayden Keenan, Greetings from Wollongong directed by Mary Callaghan, and Hard Knocks directed by Don McLennan. There are even shades of Gregor Jordan’s Two Hands made in 1999.

There is a combination of heartfelt seriousness with bleakly dark, heavy handed comedy running through the film, sometimes making it uncomfortable to watch. The audience roared with laughter at the humour, particularly the comic book police characters who are completely inept from start to finish. There is, often, a very fine line between comedy and tragedy; Williams shifts the mood rapidly by using a small clutch of film techniques that help his audience navigate the light from the darker, tragic gloom that permeates the story. Cinematographer Johanis Lyons-Reid captures the contrasts between the squalid working class and leafy upper class suburbs as effortlessly as the teenage anti-hero Brock (Jude Turner) glides through them on his skateboard.

Central to the story is the morally questionable behaviour of Brock, an intelligent university student and part time gardener, who quickly gets hooked on grifting his gardening clientele after a university mate, Hunter (Brad McCarthy), informs him of the way his family makes money on the rental property ladder. “Buy houses, rent them out and buy more houses with the rent money made,” the catch being you need a million dollars to get into it. This seems to trigger Brock’s determined pilfering of clients bank accounts.

By small town coincidence, it turns out that Hunter’s father Wayne (Adam Tuominen) is actually making money via the illicit drug trade, and Brock unwittingly stumbles upon part of his operation which leads to dire consequences, particularly for the women in Brock’s life, Shazza (Gabby Llewelyn) and Kylie (Tatiana Goode). To say more than this would spoil the story.

The film now sets off on a tour to independent cinemas first around South Australia, then the rest of the country. Beyond South Australian borders some of the sly visual gags will likely resonate less and the darker plot may linger in the viewers mind but the top and tail comic elements will catch a laugh anywhere.

Emotion Is Dead is touring Australia-wide with an Indie Cinema Tour with 30+ screenings until October, 2024


We would like to acknowledge the Kaurna people as the custodians of the lands and waters of the Adelaide region.

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