'Transfusion' by Matthew Nable Review: Trauma leading to self-destruction
Coming across Transfusion was a sudden realisation that I don't think I ever really have delved into the world of Australian cinema. A huge nation with much cultural influence from Asia, yet I don't think I've ever actually seen a classic from there. Much of the recent films from the area tend to be comedies from New Zealand that I stumble into. Transfusion was a reminder that Australia does in fact have its own world of cinema that deserves to be explored, and an interesting look into what I should probably expect from it in the more recent times. I think it will lead to me venturing into the rabbit hole in search of those older classics, too.
Unsure as to what expect, Transfusion was an interesting look into Australian filmmaking. Featuring some established actors but perhaps not quite reaching into the action-packed territory of blockbuster cinema. Nor is it quite sitting within the realm of what I would consider indie arthouse. It felt like a film I would have seen well over a decade ago, reminding me of a more simple Hollywood that strived for simple setups, decent runtimes, and good performances. Though while Transfusion has plenty of positives to keep you going, it does feel rather too controlled, almost robotic it the way it progresses its story and characters; things aren't just very predictable, but actually a bit lackluster as a result. Conforming to a structure that we have seen a plethora of times that sadly doesn't work in its favour in regards to helping it stand out.
But with a very small cast, some good filmmaking, and performances that carry the film, it was still very much worth the watch. Handling a series of issues that come with loss and trauma, as well as moving forward in life having experienced hardships that continue to haunt. It is deeply personal in the way it attempts to handle these ideas, but also does so in a way that shows how anger can very easily take over and lead to more suffering.
We start off with a military operation taking place. A sniper in the Australian army not only has to take a life, but finds himself also injured in the dangerous operation. This giving us an instant glimpse at how our protagonist has not only dealt the hand of death, but almost experienced it himself. The film quickly jumps between time periods as we see some context that establishes out protagonist is a father, and a husband. Holding a relatively healthy household with another child on the way. But this is where the film begins to feel a bit too controlled; the time jumps continue as we see very early on that his wife and son get into a car accident, leading to the death of the pregnant wife and the injuring of his son. This setup only deals a more unfortunate hand for the story as it struggles with numerous ideas that while it explores with enough detail, only lead to more predictable situations.
Jumping ahead into the future, his teenage son is troubled. Running into many encounters with the law and essentially being dealt a final warning; any other issues and he's to be sent off to a juvenile facility. Our protagonist now retired from the military and struggling to find sustainable work to support his son. What ensues is a story of hardships between father and son as they both find themselves within the criminal underworld in their own ways, but both desperately struggling to avoid the trouble that seems to just constantly come their way. This works for the most part, it's a nice idea to show how when push comes to shove, these characters try to stick to some values. There is good in them, but trouble seems almost impossible to escape from. Mostly leading them to conflicts as a result of their own traumas and self-destructive behaviours.
I enjoyed the cinematography and most notably the score that accompanied it. Gentle, almost poetic music played alongside the visuals that gave the film a more deep, emotional feeling rather than attempting to seem engaging and cool. It serves as a contrast to the actions our characters find themselves doing, reminding us that these are desperate actions and not something to be idolised. Ensuring we don't necessarily stray from the main theme that is a father and son both dealing with loss in very similar ways, failing to come together to both acknowledge it, and find ways to approach it. The music even had me questioning whether it was done by Explosions in the Sky due to how similar it felt in parts. The directing only made things more emotional with frequent use of up-close perspectives that pulled us in close to our characters and really showing their faces, giving full view of their emotions. Alongside bokeh that ensured backgrounds made these characters more distanced from their surroundings. It out us directly into their places while showing how alone from everything else they felt.
While I haven't seen the most recent Avatar film, seeing a performance by Sam Worthington was a nice surprise too. A relatively good actor that you don't see very often making his way into Australian cinema; into a film that seemingly had a low, but good enough budget. As the lead he definitely managed to carry things. Performances as a whole were the film's greatest strength; things felt convincing enough to make you care for the characters and want to see what happened to them going forward, even if things didn't feel all that serious for them due to the time jumps, predictable story, and somewhat dry writing.
Though I would argue that the film had more strengths than weaknesses. It felt unique enough, compared to most modern releases, to keep watching. Fortunately the action was relatively sparse and didn't distract from the main idea; if anything it added to it by showing the conflicted emotions of our protagonist as he again faced death. Reminded of his past and wanting to be a better person. The film made it clear that this path was not one he wanted, but was willing to go down in order to keep his son.
While I do think the film could have been better, I don't have any regrets watching it. It did what was necessary within its runtime and didn't overstep in any areas. It was just a bit too predictable to have had a larger emotional impact.