1 9 8 9 (Australia)
2 x 105 minute episodes
Adapted from a collection of short stories by Australian author Robert Drewe, this two-part miniseries from ABC-TV told the story of trendy Sydney architect David Lang (Peter Kowitz), a man from a fractured family who suffers a mid-life crisis and tries to put his life back together.
David is separated – but not divorced – from his wife Angela (Penne Hackforth-Jones), who has taken up with good old Gordon (Gerard Maguire), while the kids, Paul (Felix Nobis), Helena (Melissa Marshall) and Tim (Haydon Samuels) are confused and hurt, and fluctuate in their affections and feelings of self-doubt, generally leaving little forgiveness – let alone love – for their father.
David has taken up with a younger woman, Lydia (Joy Smithers), but there is no escaping from the fact that he is in his forties.
In search of a new life, David buys a remote beach house and takes the kids and Lydia there. But hearing of a savage double murder of an adulterous couple near the local beach, he is haunted in guilty dreams and thought sequences.
This adds to one of the most disastrous, quarrelsome family weekends, where the most trivial incidents turn into emotional crises.
Meanwhile, David keeps slipping back to memories of his mother’s egg and bacon pie.
David’s sex life is vigorous, if confused, including fairly rough trade with an upmarket dominatrix called Anthea (played with coldly brilliant sensuality by Linda Cropper, who was such a nice girl in Palace of Dreams).
The surf-beach-sand theme runs throughout, but there is an undercurrent of violence, too – such as the death of David’s drop-out son, Paul, by defenestration. We also discover that David, as a child, committed the ultimate criminal act in Australia of burning down a Surf Lifesaving clubhouse. The younger David is played very well by Clayton Williamson.
David eventually runs away, abandoning all his past, and ends up in a boarding house at the faded seaside resort where he spent his childhood holidays. The owner of the boarding house, Gus (Vincent Gil), talks of his wife, Peg, coming to run the place. We know that she died 25 years ago. He and David both have pasts they cannot face.
In flashback sequences, David’s father, Rex, is marvellously played by Tim Robertson in one of Bodysurfer‘s best performances. The scenes with Robertson yield a fetching performance by Abigail, whose turn as Mrs James, the beachfront hotelier and temptress, is a joy.
The flashbacks ultimately become reality and the present recedes into hallucination as the pieces of the puzzle gradually fit together.
Continuity is occasionally clumsily handled, but the acting from an enormous cast is of the highest order. The photography (by Jeff Malouf) is often stunning, and the whole thing has a most expensive look.
The Last Explorer
Kim Antonios Hayes
Anthony Brandon Wong