The Waiting City - movie review
Who's saying what
It’s obvious from the moment they arrive in Calcutta to collect their adopted child that Ben (Joel Edgerton) and Fiona (Radha Mitchell) aren’t on the same page. Ben is a mellow musician-turned-producer type who knows the terrain; Fiona is an uptight lawyer who spends most of her time on the phone and laptop trying to conduct a case back in Australia.
No-one actually comes out and says this child is a last-ditch attempt to keep their relationship alive, but when the adoption agency starts throwing up delays – leaving the pair of them with not much to do but spend time with each other – it doesn’t take long to figure out that they have more than a few issues ticking away.
Soon Fiona’s laptop goes out the window, Ben starts getting friendly with a backpacker (Isabel Lucas) he knows from his musician days, and why is what should be a simple and straightforward adoption procedure taking so long anyway?
One of the big benefits of setting what is basically a two-person drama in India is that there’s an awful lot to look at in the background, and this film takes full advantage of its many stunning locations. Fortunately Ben and Fiona do have perfectly good reasons for wanting to have a look around (especially when they decide to visit the orphanage where their child came from) so things never quite slip over into travel documentary territory. More importantly, the constant tension between the celebrations of spirituality going on around them (the film is set during the Durga Puja, when Calcutta celebrates the Hindu goddess Durga) and Fiona’s religion-free approach to life becomes increasingly important as the story progresses.
Both Mitchell and Edgerton shine in very different roles, giving what could have easily been clichéd characters (seriously, they’re playing a hard-nosed professional woman and her slacker husband) real emotional depth. Whatever their character flaws, there’s always a solid sense of connection between them, and it makes the slow unravelling of their relationship (just at the moment when a third person is going to be relying on them) all the more painful to watch.
The final twenty minutes drag a little - mostly because after we reach what’s been built up as the story’s climax there’s another development in store – but the many, many powerful moments beforehand more than make up for it. 2010 is shaping up to be yet another bumper year for Australian film, and The Waiting City should be a big part of that.
The Waiting City opens in cinemas nationally on Thursday, July 15.
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