Film Review – Here I Am

Here I Am (M)

Directed by: Beck Cole

Starring: Shai Pittman, Marcia Langton, Bruce Carter, Pauline Whyman

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

In the recent drama Snowtown, amateurs and non-actors hand-picked by director Justin Kurzel brought an unparalleled realism to the ghastly story of how a serial killer seduced an abused teenager to be his apprentice. The cast of un-glam and unfamiliar faces with barely a handful of credits on their IMDb profiles brought zero baggage to the film and were able to lull the audience into the almost unwatchable proceedings with their naturalistic performances.

For Snowtown, this technique worked wonders. Unfortunately, Here I Am does not get the same results. Certainly more uplifting and hopeful than Snowtown, Here I Am’s story of one woman who sets out to right wrongs in her life can, at crucial moments, keep its audience at arm’s length because of the apparent inexperience of its cast.

Despite their awkwardness, they do, however, manage to come across as one of the most endearing casts in an Australian film. The performances might not be relaxed, but there is a sense of camaraderie that comes across on-screen.

Troubled and dishevelled Karen (Shai Pittman) is released from an Adelaide jail but has nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Her drug addiction put her on skid row and her behaviour put her young daughter Rosie (Quinaiha Scott) in danger. While Karen was in lock up her mother Lois (Marcia Langton) raised Rosie and has become fiercely protective of her. Now she is out, Karen wants to reconnect with her daughter and patch up her relationship with her mother.

Karen wanders the streets aimlessly on her first night of freedom before she heads over to a run down woman’s shelter where she has a month to clean up her act and find her own accommodation. With a shady past and no work experience to put on her resume, it is an uphill battle for Karen to turn her life around. Surrounded by women who are as equally troubled but most of whom are just as keen to clean their acts up, it can sometimes be difficult for her to not fall back into her old habits.

Pittman has some fine moments as she juggles grief, determination, pain and temptation. There is a heartbreaking scene in which Karen is allowed a supervised visit with Rosie and we see that forced attempt to reconnect when Rosie does not recognise her. Pittman is so good here it is the most effective dramatic moment in the film.

The majority of the dialogue may be delivered in a stilted way with clumsy pauses here and there but the women give it their best shot and they appear to be having a good time. Some of the scenes of the women in the shelter are highlights. There are some cliché moments and the final shot is a bit on the nose but director Beck Cole has otherwise skillfully handled the themes of family, friendship, support and reconnecting.

 

 

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