a film by Kevin Dowling and Geoff Burton
1995 | 94 mins | Australia
›› The Sum of Us
an atypical father and son relationship.
The Sum of Us by Kevin Dowling and Geoff Burton Part melodrama, part romantic comedy, this highly refreshing work from down under charms with a different, if perhaps unique take on the father and son scenario.

And it all revolves around Jeff Mitchell; your typical twenty-four-year-old Australian lad, who when not earning his living as a plumber, can be found playing football and downing the pints thereafter. In between such, he shares the responsibilities of life with his father Harry, who does his best to keep house and home together in the wake of his wife's death.

And nothing unusual with that. Or is there? Well only in the sense that Jeff is openly gay and not only has the full support of his father, but has a father only too willing to do his bit to help his son find Mr Right. Then again, Harry wishes for his son, exactly that as what he desires for himself, namely to find a companion in life. To that end, Jeff chances upon handsome gardener Greg, whilst Harry comes into contact with the lovely Joyce. Only perhaps the word lovely isn't quite the one to use, given the ingrained homophobia of Joyce and the closeted lifestyle of Greg, seem destined to cast the Mitchell's plans for happiness to the wind. Or so it would appear.

The Sum of Us by Kevin Dowling and Geoff Burton Adapted for the screen by David Stevens from his own home-grown hit and delivered with natural charm throughout, this touching feature has a lot going for it, not least of which is a compelling depiction of Harry's motherís close friendship with another woman, following the death of her husband. Only for all of the positives on offer and of those there are many, it suffers from one too many signs of its theatrical origin, given it is laced with a series of nods and winks to the camera, let alone lines of dialogue that whilst undoubtedly great on stage, just do not have the same impact when transferred to the silver screen.

Then again, such quibbles are in many ways minor ones, given it is redeemed by the fine performances from Jack Thompson as Harry and Russell Crowe as Jeff, both of whom excel in their portrayal of a vibrant, if atypical father and son relationship.

And yet for all the upbeat charm of the piece, it surprisingly arrives with an emotional third act, one that gives way to a melodramatic conclusion. Only for many, the real surprise here is an early celluloid appearance of macho Gladiator star Russell Crowe playing gay and yes he does kiss, in a work that marks a rare cinematic depiction of a parent who far from disapproving of their son's homosexuality, embraces it - just too much! Definitely worth seeing.
 
available on DVD as part of the Stax Entertainment catalogue
starring: Jack Thompson, Russell Crowe, John Polson, Deborah Kennedy,
Joss Moroney, Mitch Matthews, Julie Herbert
Copyright 2005 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #084
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