There is nothing quite like sitting down to watch a film that relies heavily on its screenplay. Yes, I love my action blockbusters but the screenwriter in me just laps up films like The Ice House and Blackbird that rely on a brilliantly written script and character-driven dialogue to make the film work. Given how many great dramas Australia has produced it is surprising that we haven’t brilliant character-driven films, but I guess that just makes films like brand new drama Disclosure even more special.
In one way it almost feels wrong to call Disclosure a drama. The emotions the film puts its audience through is more like what you would expect from a thriller. Certainly there are more than a few times throughout the film where you find yourself waiting with baited breath to see what a character will do or say next.
Written and directed by Australian filmmaker Michael Bentham (Mowing The Lawn) Disclosure centres around two couples. First of all there is ambitious politician Joel Chalmers (Tom Wren – The Inbetweeners 2) and his glamorous wife Bek (Geraldine Hakewill – Wanted). Then there is journalist Danny Bowman (Mark Leonard Winter – The Dressmaker) and his filmmaker wife Emily (Matilda Ridgway – June Again).
The two couple are friends but now are meeting to discuss the allegations made by Danny and Emily who allege that Joel and Bek’s ten-year-old son sexually assaulted their four-year-old daughter. Danny and Emily assume that Joel and Bek will want to talk through the issue as friends but they are mistaken and soon anger and blackmail comes to the surface.
Bentham’s screenplay for Disclosure is nothing short of amazing. What will happen from scene to scene is impossible to predict while he also manages to introduce a shade of grey to each character. A great example of this is the character of Joel. Yes when it comes to his work he is ambitious but as is mentioned in the film, he is also someone that normally fights for the rights of people like refugees. Yet, here when his son has potentially causes a lot of emotional damage to another child he wants to shut up shop and get defensive.
The story here winds itself around corners and seems to expose secret after secret that never stand in the way of the main plot – instead they add more suspense and intrigue to a film that is smart enough to never put all of its cards on the table until it really needs to. The film deserves even more credit for the way it delves deep into topics such as how much pornography and sexuality our children are exposed to in modern society and the impact that it has on them emotionally, it is deep but the film never feels like it is preaching.
While on paper it might sound like the two couples are split into the ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But that certainly isn’t the way it feels when you are watching the film. As an audience member you find yourself questioning what really happened with the event in question and there are times you are genuinely surprised at how each character reacts at certain times. By the end you certainly know what happened and the fiery conclusion between the characters certainly leaves the audience content.
I could sit here and say for hours how this film reveals one of the best Australian filmmakers we have seen in years with Bentham, but it would also be a crime not to mention the sensational cast that bring this film to life. Ever since I saw Mark Leonard Winter in films like Further We Search and Van Diemen’s Land I knew that he was an actor with a brilliant range, but here I also see the strength of his ability matched by Wren, Ridgway and Hakewill all of whom I hope I see in many films to come. As an ensemble this is the perfect cast… they are truly sensational.
With the beautiful Dandenong Ranges as its setting and its dark tone this is a film with a hard edge that will not easily been forgotten. It was predicted that 2021 would be the year of Australian cinema but The Dry better watch it because Disclosure can easily match it as one of the films of the year.