Choir Girl: Review. By Hugues Porquier.
“Choir Girl” is John Fraser’s first feature film released in Australia in December 2019. In this movie, entirely in black and white, we follow Eugene (played by Peter Flaherty), a photographer who lives with his sick father and leads a mediocre life.
He photographs the dark corners of Melbourne in the hope of getting a shot that could bring him fame and change his life. Between drugs, prostitution and corruption, Melbourne is a goldmine for the photographer who seeks to capture the plight of people forgotten by society.
After several refusals from magazines to publish his pictures, Eugene’s life will change completely with an encounter. In the first part of the film, Eugene’s distress is palpable. The mediocre life in which he is locked up gives us shivers down our spines. He seems to be rejected by society, lonely, his sick father as only friend. Moreover, the dark and quite oppressive atmosphere works really well.
But the film takes a completely different direction when he meets Josephine (played by Sarah Timm). Josephine is a 15-year-old immigrant sex-worker who is a victim of a prostitution network led by Daddy (played by Jack Campbell). At first, Eugene will try to save Josephine. He wants to get her out of this awful network.
At this point the film seems to begin to develop the birth of a father-daughter relationship, which could be very interesting, between a man who has always been alone and a young girl abandoned by everyone. Instead, we witness a very common history of mafia guys, but with bad guys who are not scary at all and whom we don’t believe in.
The film also moves towards a rather strange relationship between Eugene and Josephine, which is very badly written, quite disturbing and seems awkwardly inspired by “Lolita”. The main problem is that the characters are not credible, whether in their writing or in the interpretation of the actors. Mafia guys and journalists are just clichés, not original at all.
The actors do not succeed in convincing us of the opposite. The only suitable performance is the one from Sarah Timm. This lack of credibility leads to the fact that the stakes don’t work, we don’t believe in this story and the fate of the characters doesn’t matter.
So the really dark and captivating universe presented in the first part is inevitably ruined by this fumbling development of the characters. The photography is embellished by superb black and white images, which is the real strength of the film. We feel that the director has really made an effort on this aspect, trying to make an homage to photography through his film and through the character of Eugene.
“Choir Girl” by John Fraser is a clumsy attempt to take us into a world that seemed very interesting and inspiring but which is very badly exploited.
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