Based on the play Who’s Afraid of the Working Class by Andrew Bovell, Melissa Reeves, Patricia Cornelius and Christos Tsiolkas, Ana Kokkinos’ powerful film is divided into two parts. In the first, The Children, we follow a group of kids who get into trouble in various different ways. In the second, The Mothers, we cover the same time frame but from the perspective of the mothers. The latter are superbly portrayed by Miranda Otto, Deborra-Lee Furness, Frances O’Connor and Victoria Haralabidou, while the cast also includes Wayne Blair, Monica Maughan and William McInnes. There’s not a hint of the story’s theatrical origins in the immensely accomplished direction. Kokkinos sometimes depicts the same incident as seen from two different perspectives, and her sympathy for all of these characters, flawed as some of them are, is palpable, but at the same time the film is a scream of anger directed against parents who neglect their children. The scene in which one of the mothers, Rhonda (O’Connor), discovers what has happened to her children is quite unforgettable. Confronting at times, but honest and powerful, this is surely one of the greatest Australian films of recent years.
From the Collection of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia