3 out of 5 stars
Summary: Daniel Fisher (Hugo Weaving) is an Australian photographer who has built his career on his ability to capture images from war-torn areas of the world. The work has taken a toll on his body, mind and relationships. When he returns from Syria to Sydney to assist with a photo exhibit of his life’s work, his past begins to catch up to him. His long-suffering and faithful partner, Josie (Hayley McElhinney), tries to help the photographer through his mental and physical trials, but adds to his stress by announcing that she is pregnant. Usually something the couple would be able to celebrate, except they were still grieving through the loss of their daughter, Eve.
As things progress towards the exhibit being launched, a Sudanese refugee named Sebastian (Andrew Luri) reaches out to Daniel. Initially Sebastian ask Daniel to come to photograph his singing group of fellow refugees, but then the recent immigrant asks a favour of the journalist. Daniel had taken world-famous images of a massacre of Sebastian’s village and the African asked for the photos to not be part of the exhibit. The two men build a friendship and Fisher is willing to consider his friend's request. Then a secret from the past changes everything in the lives of the two men and their families.
Short-take: Director Ben Lawrence manages to expose the multi-layered aspects of every image we see in our newsfeed while addressing the ever-present refugee issue around the world. Using the friendship of these two men and the shared experiences they had in Africa, he can unpack each character’s story while showing the interconnectivity they all shared. The screenplay addresses the issues of post-traumatic stress (PTSD), grief, loss and the corrosive nature of keeping secrets.
Hugo Weaving and Hayley McElhinney provide the seasoned professionalism and depth to anchor this story. While first-time actor Andrew Luri holds his own opposite the veteran cast and provides the heart of Lawrence’s refugee tale. There is a rawness to the writing, visuals and acting that gives this a docu-drama feel, but it still captures the dramatic passion of each family’s trials and triumphs. It does contain mature content of wartime violence, nudity and language that makes this best suited for mature audiences.
Reel Dialogue: What secrets do you hold onto unnecessarily?
Hidden underneath the messages of the modern-day refugee situation and the horrors of war, there is a fascinating consideration of secrets. Keeping someone’s confidence is critical in the maintaining of relationships, but what if those little tidbits of information are detrimental to others? It is a conundrum that has tested the strength of human connections throughout the ages.
The physician Luke writes about this from one of Jesus’ teachings, ‘Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.’ While the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.’
The issue of secrets does move into grey areas at times and does need discernment on the importance of keeping someone’s confidence. Yet, the message is given through this film. The words of most wise teachers point to the value of transparency and truth. Two solutions that truly build more robust relationships than any secret.