Film and Book Reviews

Life is more than a sales pitch in A Month of Sundays

FILM

By Wendy Knowlton

May 6 2016
Anthony LaPaglia gives a beautifully restrained performance as morose real estate agent Frank Mollard.

Frank Mollard (Anthony LaPaglia) is “in a mood” according to his boss, Phillip Lang (John Clarke). He has been for some time. His mother died and he knows he didn’t handle it well. His marriage to Wendy (Justine Clarke) has broken down, his monosyllabic son (Indiana Crowther) treats him as an irrelevance, and he feels there’s no argument about the fact that his career in real estate is “evil”. He is going through the motions, a body without a soul, a series of awkward silences and long pauses so ponderous one yearns to leap in and finish his sentences. But everything changes when he answers a wrong number and mistakes the voice at the other end of the phone for his dead mother.

Instead it’s Sarah (Julia Blake), warm and understanding enough to sense that this is a vulnerable and isolated human being in need of compassion. She invites Frank into her home, where the mat proclaims “Welcome”. Chance encounters can lead people to those they need, and even though Sarah knows she can’t be the solution to all that’s wrong in Frank’s life, she proves the catalyst that brings about a thaw. Frank’s internal voice is accustomed to applying the euphemisms of real estate to every property he tries to shift, but ex-Librarian Sarah is able to “read” his words and his silences and extract truth, and in turn he starts to see what she’s concealing about her life and how he can help.

This is a gentle film with a leisurely pace that may not appeal to all. It takes some time to work out where it’s heading, and the way all the pieces slot in at the end is perhaps too neat, but that’s not to say the audience won’t want them to. It’s about connections. One cares about Frank, about Frank Junior’s thespian dreams, about the couple weary with attending auctions where properties sell for well above their limit, and about Sarah’s son, Damien (Donal Forde) who has to determine a path through loss and grief. The film’s muted quality receives a welcome injection of dry humour through John Clarke, but even his character has real heart. He agonises about his elderly father and he cares for Frank, however poorly he’s doing his job. But it is the restrained performance of LaPaglia, the dignified strength of Blake and the palpable bond between them that is most compelling.

The contrast between the stark white foyer of Frank’s glossy workplace and the much loved, book-laden shelves of Sarah’s home is significant. An empty house is not just the opportunity for a slick auctioneer or a greedy developer. It’s a place where memories were formed and families lived and loved. Frank finds redemption in securing a couple a home, rather than selling them a property, and this helps him realise that it’s not a “renovator’s delight” that is a “wonderful opportunity.” The opportunity lies in what life has to offer, and what he has to offer the world in return.