This Adelaide passion project whose supporters include Elizabeth’s best-known son, Jimmy Barnes, comes from a place of great nostalgia for the planned suburb built in the late1950s to house blue and white-collar workers employed at the new Holden factory. Just the sound of the opening advertising jingle built on the immortal lines “football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars” is to summon up a time long gone.

South Australian writer and director Pete Williams, who invested his own money in this low-budget, independent feature, memorialises his own occasionally misspent youth in a story that follows teenage skateboarder Brock (Jude Turner) who wants to rise above his fairly dismal Elizabeth origins. Holden, which once employed 3,400 people, closed in 2017 and when the money dried up, so did Elizabeth’s future.

Brock, a charmless young punk, is bucking his limited prospects by abusing his trusted access as a gardener around Adelaide to break in and see what he can steal. He kicks off in a nice place in Crafers which he wanders through, drinking a liqueur and taking passwords from the computer.

Soon after he graduates to a property in Stirling where he stumbles on a marijuana grow house behind the high-security entrance to what looked like a disused shed. He hits the big time by shifting a large sum of money from the account of a Dulwich drug lord Wayne (Adam Tuominen), to himself, on his phone. Effortlessly.

The film is a hymn to the glory days of Holden which is at times wrily amusing – emo Brock still sleeps in his red car bed – other times much sadder. His still-young mother Shazza (Gabby Llewelyn) drinks beer from a can in her Holden cap and shuffles on a frame as she deals with the traumatic loss of her husband, a Holden fanatic whose pictures of Peter Brock winning the Bathurst 1000 are still on the wall.

Outside of home, Brock’s emo girlfriend Kylie (Tatiana Goode), who loves metal music as much as Brock, tries to put him in touch with his dreams as they stare at the sky above Gumeracha’s giant rocking horse. She wants to open her own beauty salon and call it Screaming Infidelities: Brock just wants to get away.

Williams’ intention is to honour a lost place and time, not all of it good as Barnes’ autobiography showed, with a quirky story about a juvenile petty criminal who gets lucky by stealing from someone who deserves it. And a fair amount of slack can be given for a low-budget feature made with community support and good intentions that wants to celebrate Australian ordinariness. On these grounds, it will find fans.

But this is not The Castle (1997) which endeared itself to the masses with its heroic warmth and silliness. Nor can it compete artistically with a film like Justin Kurzel and Shaun Grant’s Snowtown (2011) which so chillingly depicted the contemporary bleakness and vulnerability of life in Adelaide’s north. A cinema release outside of the Adelaide Film Festival also puts it in the company of master filmmakers like UK writer director Ken Loach who has all but made it his life’s work to bring the micro tragedies of England’s crumbling industrial heartland to the screen.

All that could be forgiven if Brock was an anti-hero with more going for him than sullen dishonesty and emo bitterness, and a story with more to say than if you haven’t got it, steal it, and with luck your mum will help. Brock pays for his sins but it needed a lighter touch and less violence to win us over to his social-justice ethos – his right to the riches of others.

Emotion is Dead launches at the Capri Theatre on Friday (June 28) with special guests including former Holden Elizabeth workers. It will have 30 screening events as part of a limited release national Australian Indie Cinema Tour, including 15 in Adelaide and regional South Australia followed by Q&As with cast and crew

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