Terrific film. Set in the western suburbs of Melbourne, it’s a slice of suburban life that is Melbourne through and through, but also broadly human. It’s the experience of a young mother who suffers an aneurism and is warned that lifting, constipation, stifling sneezing and orgasms could trigger another bleed : as her doctor said, there’s one of those you can avoid. And so, she and her husband do, over a one year period punctuated with tooth fairies, nits, football finals and Christmas raffles. All this domestic clutter continues as Natalie returns to her role as mother, fragile and teary, reprieved and troubled by her own mortality; her husband Ross is rocked by her near-death, anxious about the constant restructuring in his own workplace, quailing in the face of financial troubles and resentful of his wife’s tentative explorations of spirituality.
The acting was wonderful: Sasha Horler (Natalie) would look at her children and crumple into tears- and so did I. I held my breath as she lay in her hospital bed, so still and so very, very ill. When Bubblehead the fox terrier was attacked by a larger dog, I found myself shaking like a leaf, just as I did when my own little Ellie was monstered by the dog down the street. A look; a comment tossed over the shoulder- it was like watching someone else’s life unfold before you.
This is Sarah Watt’s second film after Look Both Ways. There are similarities between the two: both are set in Melbourne; both are intimate slices of a set period of time (a weekend; a year); both use animation as structural devices although there was less of this in ‘My Year Without Sex’. I do find myself wondering whether she will move beyond such up-close explorations of illness and mortality: it’s obviously a theme that is important to her.
This film is not unlike ‘The Castle’ in that, as a Melburnian, you can identify instantly with so many aspects of their daily life- even if MY house is much neater, my children are older, we’re on the other side of the Westgate etc. It’s such an affectionate film. I’m delighted that it’s doing so well.