Platform

Looking for Grace

Sue Brooks

A married couple (Richard Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell) embark on a road trip across West Australia in pursuit of their runaway teenage daughter, in the new film from Australian writer-director Sue Brooks (Japanese Story).

Like a diamond cutter poised over her gem of a story, writer-director Sue Brooks carves this tale into chapters that reveal vivid emotional colours and a sometimes-unsettling psychological clarity. Looking for Grace is a darkly funny anatomy of human frailty.

Grace (Odessa Young) is a small-town teenager. When we first meet her, she's on a long bus trip with her best friend Sappho (Kenya Pearson) through the vast, dry Australian landscape. We don't know where they're going, but we know this trip is an escape. When an older boy (Harry Richardson) gets on the bus, both girls are intrigued, but Grace is the bolder one. At an overnight motel stop, she makes a choice that changes her friendship with Sapph.

Shift perspective to Bruce (Myles Pollard), a long-distance truck driver we saw in passing earlier. Then to Tom (Terry Norris), a cop. Then Grace's mother, Denise (Radha Mitchell), then her father, Dan (Richard Roxburgh). As we move from one character to another, the complete picture begins to come into focus: Grace has run away from home. Her parents are frantic. Money is missing. Her father holds a secret. And the police are investigating, though not terribly well.

As Looking for Grace changes from understated drama to crime comedy, it's fun to put its narrative puzzle pieces together. But even greater pleasures lie in its insights into character. Brooks (Road to Nhill, Japanese Story) paints a plausible picture of the volatile Grace, who can shift from insolence to joy at a moment's notice. Her father is a man of little substance whose limitations are revealed in an excruciatingly funny scene that's one of the film's high points. And Radha Mitchell does wonderful work as Grace's mother, a tightly wound yoga mum who watches in horror as her perfect life is slashed into glittering shards.

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