This satire on the Australian dream – the idea that everyone is entitled to a piece of God’s own country on which to build their pile and live happily after – follows the misadventures of a young couple, Des (Martin Sacks) and Terri (Joy Smithers) Tunkley and their son, Jack (Jack Ellis), as they move from a cramped life in the coastal “Happy Daze” caravan park to a tract home in the far-flung outer suburbs of Sydney, a Campbelltown-style paradise called Fraser.
The film’s main targets are the basis of the dream itself, the notion that property brings contentment, and the shonky estate agents, builders and finance bodies perpetuating the dream for their own profit.
The idea is full of promise, and the title beautifully encapsulates that promise (try saying it backwards). Unfortunately, what ended up on the screen was uneven and underdeveloped – like a short film stretched to feature length. It cries out for more ruthless editing to quicken the pace and even the flow.
The use of kitsch TV advertisements in their entirety (for the finance company or for Tunkley Tyres, which is run by Des’s brother, Les) which is meant to emphasise the media’s role in promoting the dream, only contributes to the fractured style.
Some of Emoh Ruo is very funny, though most of the comic load is carried by the supporting players, especially Max Phipps as the unscrupulous builder and Philip Quast as Les, the Tyre King. The screen lights up whenever they appear.
Underlying all the traumas of the hapless Tunkleys, as their house starts to disintegrate around them, is a strong vein of affection for these characters as ordinary Australians.
The movie makes fun of them, certainly, but they are primarily victims.
The film flopped in the cinema but went on to enjoy an extended life on VHS, in the United States and in Europe, where it was re-titled House Broken.
Louise Le Nay