Looking for Grace is the story of two teenage girls who take off on an adventure without their parents’ permission, with one of them having her first serious sexual experience.
Odessa Young (Grace) and Kenya Pearson (Sappho) are delightful. They portray youthful exuberance with its accompanying carefree naivety without becoming irritatingly angst-driven.
Writer and director Sue Brooks has deliberately underplayed the emotion normally associated with a daughter running away from home and has instead created a quirky, unusual exploration of human relationships.
Looking for Grace is told from the slightly varied perspectives of different characters, and scenes are revisited from a range of viewpoints. Brooks has an eye for detail, an understanding of people and how the ordinary and mundane can preoccupy us even during significant occasions; the dialogue is occasionally Pinteresque and every scene is carefully arranged to be visually appealing.
Richard Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell, as Grace’s parents Dan and Denise, are superb with their understated, gentle performances which continually surprise and delight.
Numerous road-trip sequences or domestic scenes are punctuated with dialogue that is profound, pathetic or very funny. There is no crass ockerish behaviour, no melodrama and no predictable dialectic; we warm to these characters and their dilemmas and we feel for them – all the more so for their ordinariness.
Roxburgh is a fumbling, awkward husband and a typical father unsure how to talk with his daughter; there are complications in his relationships and the actor masterfully communicates the many dimensions to his character. Mitchell is a quietly spoken wife and mother, who is able to offer comfort and connection with her daughter.
Terry Norris plays the elderly private detective who is very concerned for his dentures and the quality of his smile, and who still has the energy and desire for a bit of fun with his wife. Harry Richardson is appealing as Jamie, the cool young man who Grace quickly falls for.
Looking for Grace has been filmed beautifully; from the opening aerial views of Australian landscapes, there is a sense of the vastness of our environment and our tiny roles within it.
There are very few characters other than the main players in this film: Brooks has cleverly not attempted to fill scenes with extras to create a natural setting, but rather has made interior scenes, road trips and night locations sparse and empty to reinforce the isolation of the family in its lonely predicament. Meetings inside motel rooms, on porches at night, in a kitchen or at the roadside are exquisitely framed and captured.
The cast members are often still, allowing us to take in the scene and to ponder the outcome for family. Dialogue is usually minimal, unpredictable, surprising and funny, encouraging audience to take in the artistically designed settings.
Looking for Grace looks good, the cast is tremendous, and it evokes the laconic pace of Australian life. Some moments are breathtaking and one will have you gasping.
A profoundly beautiful work of art that explores both the possibilities and the fragility of life.
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