Film review: LOOKING FOR GRACE, from ‘Built For Speed’

Much like the Western Australian outback in which it is largely set, Looking for Grace is disconcertingly empty. A wafer thin plot sees rebellious teen Grace (Odessa Young) steal money from her gormless parents Denise and Dan (Rhada Mitchell and David Wenham) and run away with friend Sapho (Kenya Pearson) presumably to see a hard-core punk band called Dead Dog. Frantic, Denise and Dan call on old friend and private detective Tom Norris (Terry Norris) to help track her down. The search, however, causes Denise and Dan to reassess their relationship as much as the one they have with their daughter.

The title is of course a play on words describing the literal search for the young girl and the attempt by a dysfunctional and fractious family to find some peace and stability in their life. Unfortunately, the story simply doesn’t have enough substance to draw us into that drama. Looking for Grace is like a short film that has been padded out to feature length. The use of Rashomon style with events shown repeatedly but from different character’s points of view seems to be an attempt by writer/ director Sue Brooks to bulk up the slender story.

The film is also plagued by odd tonal shifts: it begins as a gritty teen drama focusing on Grace’s experiences on the run, then it transforms into quirky comedy as it depicts Denise and Dan’s confused response to their daughter’s disappearance before jarringly turning into a tragedy. The individual sections of the film work well (the middle segment which focuses on the duplicitous Dan is genuinely funny) but together they make an awkward mix.

All the performances are fine with Mitchell and Wenham amusing as the neurotic parents and Norris endearing as ever as the feisty old bloke lamenting the debilitating passage of time. There’s a lack of background to some characters, though and some of them just disappear without explanation.

The seeds of a fine Australian film are lurking in Looking for Grace but a stronger script was needed to bring them to fruition.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Drama/ comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Sue Brooks.

Release date: 26th January 2016.

Running time: 101 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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