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:: Mallboy

A sense of satisfaction would have gone through musician-turned-director Vincent Giarrusso’s mind in seeing the outcome of this long poem he wrote from seven years ago. He puts his hand into directing a subject that tears into the poorer part of Australian suburbia by his clever portrayal of fifteen year-old boy, Shaun (Kane McNay). We are introduced to three tumultuous days in the life of this boy, whose heaven is found at the shopping mall, and whose hell is at home. It’s a fragile existence and the film displays elements of compassion and recklessness in bringing about Shaun’s story.

“Mallboy” reveals to us a global problem of what can trouble kids in their misguided times. It is a very difficult thing to learn about adulthood and witness unorthodox behaviour by adults who themselves have trouble growing up. Shaun has returned home to his mother Jenny (Nell Feeney) and two sisters following his “escape” from a juvenile correction centre. He doesn’t find much enthusiasm and reward for this effort of seeking security. With arguing sisters and a drinking, drug-abusing mother, Shaun looks to the local shopping mall for a better world. 

When viewing the film, there can be several questions raised about the “supporting” characters to Shaun. They may remain unanswered throughout the film, and may give the film an incomplete look. But, it is clearly the director’s logic that this story is told about Shaun only. From the moment we see the social worker (Brett Tucker) conduct a search to lead Shaun back there, to a seemingly uncaring mother, and a father who has spent time behind bars, Shaun’s life has been on the edge. The tension intensifies when Shaun’s father is to be welcomed home at Jenny’s house. All hell breaks loose when his father brings his current girlfriend to the party. What is Shaun to make of all this carry-on? And he doesn’t receive much support from his father.

The last moments of the film paints a more helpful solution for Shaun than otherwise envisaged. He finds that self-reliance may be his way out and that he can make a decision, whether good or bad. Vincent Giarrusso’s story will strike a chord with many people in this honest assessment of adolescent woes. The acting performances of the generally young cast are to be noted. Kane McNay, as Shaun, displays much sensitivity and pessimism by his sheer facial expressions. Nell Feeney, in her first feature film role, conveys the emotions of her troubled motherhood with gritty determination.

This is a fine directorial debut by Giarrusso and the showing of the film at the last Cannes Film Festival is indicative of Vincent’s insight and raw energy. Having worked as a youth worker several years ago, he engineers a fine urban drama and “Mallboy” is a deserved reward for him and his team.