I’ve been reviewing theatre and film for a couple of years now. My own general rule of thumb is that around 60% of shows are essentially dreadful—usually due to the script, occasionally the direction, rarely the acting. Another 30% are well meaning but flawed. You want to like them but something goes wrong. 9% are good and you acknowledge them as such and so does everyone else and you maybe pick up one or two lines for potential use on girls. Three Blind Mice however belongs to that rare 1%, that almost mystical other: it’s an absolute gem, a film you treasure and text your friends about and worry that it might sink without a trace when it deserves oh! so much more.
Because this film is absolutely on the money: smart, fun, with witty dialogue and brilliant performances. Three Aussie sailors, priggish Dean, clever-dick Harry and quiet Sam have one night’s shore leave in Sydney before they ship out the next day. Harry just wants to have a good time, Dean is anxious to catch up with his fiancé—and her parents—while Sam seems pre-occupied. Harry and Dean worry that he’s planning to go AWOL; something’s happened at sea.
Three Blind Mice has clearly been influenced by the excellent 1974 movie ‘The Last Detail’ (with Jack Nicholson at his most sympathetic) and there’s a cute scene in a park inspired by the earlier film. It also uses the same free-wheeling screen style and frenetic pacing. However most importantly it’s learnt the lesson that character drives plot and the result is a film with real emotional weight. Sure there’s a bit of whimsy in there too, a comic English pimp who sounds rather like Dennis Waterman, but I’d rather this than miserabilism so many Indie films mistake for badge of authenticity.
Rumour has it Matthew Newton, who plays Harry (and is both the writer and director) is not widely liked back home in Oz. The oddly churlish tone of the programme notes given to journalists at the preview goes some way to explaining why, while the insistence that it is an anti-war movie is both off-putting and curiously at odds with the actual viewing experience. He’s also been through the courts recently for ABH. A talented Aussie bad boy—where have we heard of one of them before?
The film struggled to find a distributor and it may well vanish once it’s toured the film festivals. In the meantime I urge you to go and see it. It’s the best new film I’ve seen this year.