Matthew Saville is arguably one of Australia’s most sought-after directors. His name is stamped on some of the decade’s most critically acclaimed Australian television, including Please Like Me, The Slap, Cloud Street and We Can Be Heroes, and his ability to pair stylish aesthetics with strong emotionally-anchored storytelling is exemplary. A Month of Sundays is his fourth feature-length film following Noise, the Graham Kennedy TV biopic The King and 2013’s impressive crime-thriller Felony.
This new film presents a stark contrast of atmosphere to those aforementioned titles and showcases a softer side to Saville’s creativity. He also serves as the film’s writer and, with that, he presents an unconventional love story that explores themes of regret and redemption, following an unlikely friendship between a middle-aged man and an elderly woman.
Anthony LaPaglia stars as Frank Mollard, a mildly depressed real estate agent whose life has come to an impasse following the death of his mother and a marriage breakdown. Unhappy in life and unmotivated, he finds solace in an unexpected and unlikely friendship. One night he receives a phone call that has a profound effect on him and forces him to take stock in his life.
To elaborate further would reveal too much, and while it may be simple and light-hearted, the film benefits from ignorance – no spoilers here. What I can say is that A Month of Sundays is a sincere story that isn’t so much about the destination as it is about the journey. Its formulaic structure makes the character developments predictable, however, the calibre of weighty performances and a quick-witted script has allowed Saville to tap unto the Aussie idiosyncrasy with a relish that makes it hard to resist.
I had never figured Anthony LaPaglia as an actor with much emotional depth, let alone range (that’s not to say that haven’t enjoyed his work), but his performance here is wonderful. He connects with the character and understands his nuances, resulting in a heartfelt performance full of emotional subtlety. Julia Blake shares the headline as Frank’s beautiful elderly friend, Sarah. She has a lovely, endearing on-screen presence and provides the counter-balance to the film’s frivolity. Justine Clarke and John Clarke lend their support, and while Mr. Clarke’s role isn’t crucial to the story, the film would be amiss without him. He threads his brand of dry-witted colloquial humour throughout, helping to set it apart from others.
Having made so many accomplished titles, A Month of Sundays is Matthew Saville’s least cinematic expression to date, however, it is among his nicest. The suburban Adelaide setting gives it at lot of charm and the controlled cinematography keeps it from slipping into telemovie territory. He has produced a safe and reliable film that is well written, wonderfully performed, resistant to the genre’s mawkish tropes, and regardless of critical reception, should prove to be a crowd pleaser.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10