Careless Love is the first Australian film in over ten years from ‘The Year My Voice Broke’ and ‘Flirting’ director John Duigan. But you’d be best to forget that when you go and see this film. If you try and compare it to those two Australian classics you will be disappointed. It’s a film that will no doubt be forgotten in the weekly section of the video store.
Interestingly this film is very similar in story to ‘Sleeping Beauty’, another Australian film which came out late last year. They are both about female university students who are forced to become sex workers to make ends meet. Sleeping Beauty had a more dreamlike feel to it and it’s premise: ‘a young woman in financial trouble takes sedatives so that men can pay to do whatever they want to her while she is unconscious’ caused a mild controversy. My mum told me she was ‘sickened’ and refused to talk about it any further, which I think was the general prognosis in Australia (even though it was given a standing ovation at Cannes it was shunned at the AACTA awards, while every other Australian film released that year was given a musical number! Literally!). But as someone who actually saw the film, I have to say I thought it was brilliant. The film slowly undresses the way young women’s bodies are objectified in our society, by the end the protagonist becomes just a inanimate female body. It’s in no way titillating, instead it makes you feel culpable as the viewer, forcing you to face your own participation in this objectification.
But on to Careless Love. Although I mentioned this film doesn’t stand up to Duigan’s other work it definitely has it’s own merit. The strongest parts of it are the episodic sequences that take up much of the film. Linh enters a situation and we watch it slowly play out. The strongest of these are when Linh is booked by a group of drunk university students, these smug little pricks laugh as though they have made some sort of ironic transgression. But really their humiliation of her is the hardest to watch. The sequences of the long nights of comradery as Linh, fellow escort Mint and their driver Dion (David Field in a fantastic performance) discuss clients in the car and stop for fast food in the early hours of the morning, are also brilliant. But the final act changes the structure of the film. It swings away from the episodic nature (that works so well) and attempts to bring all the parts smashing together. I see the potential in this, Linh compartmentalises her life and having everything come together threatens to break her character. But somehow the film slips into melodrama and looses not only its subtlety but its believability as well.
Careless Love may have it’s flaws but every scene had such a rich sense of humanity that it was still a pleasure to watch. I’d recomend this film, It will never be a classic but I really did enjoy it (it was definately an easier viewing experience than Sleeping Beauty that’s for sure!). It also springs to mind that these films have the strongest and most complex leading female characters to come out of Australia in years. Let’s just hope the fact that these roles perscribe that the actress spend most of the film in her undies isn’t the reason for this to have happened.