Incinerated pensioners, a fatal car accident and a family on the verge of collapse initiate a journey into a numbing, soulless suburban world. The Conroys are the hyperbolic representation of the dysfunctional nuclear family; bitter, divided and miserable. Harrison Gilbertson plays fifteen year old Billy Conroy, a boy falling under the influence of his bad boy neighbour, and viewing himself as the epicentre of the mishaps that threaten to destroy his family.
Described as a ‘dark comedy’, Accidents Happen is certainly dark. The film is based around the turmoils of childhood from the personal perspective of its writer, Brian Carbee. Australian director Andrew Lancaster has only directed one film prior to Accidents Happen, a short film also written by Carbee called In Search of Mike, which won two awards at the Sydney Film Festival.
Geena Davis plays a well rounded role, despite a script that occasionally pulls her to the sidelines. By contrast, many of the other characters seem somewhat two dimensional, despite the emotional voracity of the plot. The score set by Anthony Partos accentuates the twisted and dark emotional vortex that smothers the viewer. This all-consuming coldness clashes, however, with the humorous intentions of some scenes. The curious accidents and the condescending anecdotes of Gloria Conroy (Geena Davis) are rarely funny; they simply add to the heavy weight of bitterness that the film inspires. This ‘dark comedy’ is simply far too dark for any humour to prevail.
Further to the detriment of the film is the American setting, though it was shot entirely in Sydney. The Australian and New Zealander actor’s flimsy American accents prove irritating, and make it difficult for the viewer to be immersed in this sardonic portrayal of suburbia. If only the plot was set in Sydney, then everything would work ever so nicely. The retro feel is pulled off well, and the atmosphere is ravishingly cold. Due to this thick emotional cloud, the film is both unsettling and moving, even if it isn’t the least bit funny, and those damnable accents threaten to unscrew one’s sanity.
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