When: Thursday, 15 July - Saturday, 14 August
Where: Various cinemas
How much: $15
Throwing westerners into a chaotic foreign landscape of stark cultural contrasts will inevitably provide compelling ready-made drama, but can be precarious territory for a filmmaker. There is almost always the looming risk of over-exoticising, which can result in blatant cultural 'othering', stripping the endeavor of its authenticity. Fortunately, Australian writer/director, Claire McCarthy, navigates this rocky terrain with sensitivity and astute cultural awareness in her second feature film The Waiting City.
Fiona (Radha Mitchell) and Ben (Joel Edgerton) are a young Australian couple seeking to adopt a young child from Calcutta, India. They've been waiting to collect her for two years. They have her name, they have her photo, but they don’t have her — a fact that will test their already tenuous relationship to its limits. The longer they are forced to wait in the rambling, frenetic city, the more we see the seams of their marriage begin to fray.
Fiona is a driven, successful lawyer who finds herself increasingly frustrated with her musician husband's laissez-faire way of life. Equally, Ben finds fault with his workaholic wife's inability to put her professional duties aside and surrender to circumstance. As red tape impedes the adoption process further, Ben and Fiona are forced to confront the real issue: that a baby may not provide the antidote to their fractured relationship.
Based on McCarthy’s personal experiences in Indian orphanages and countless interviews with couples in similar situations to her characters, The Waiting City has the kind of raw authenticity that can only come from a true understanding of its subject matter. Cinematographer Denson Baker does a great job of tempering the stunning locations with earthy grit, endowing the film with an almost documentary feel. Edgerton and Mitchell are equally convincing in their roles, delivering layered, nuanced portrayals of two starkly different people attempting to find unity.
The Waiting City deals with themes of spiritualism, motherhood and the issue of international adoption, but is ultimately a film about intimate relationships and the stuff that binds them when all else falls away.