ACCIDENTS HAPPEN is a new Australian film that arrives on our screens complete with an arty controversy in tow. Though a controversy can be a clever promotional tool, the scandal in question is of interest to the Oz film industry, only. The buzz has been from those who have complained about Screen Australia – the national film body – funding a movie whose characters and settings are American.There would have been a time that this would have annoyed me too, but at this point, I’m just glad to see an Australian film that has some substance and takes some risks.
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN focuses on the life of young Billy Conway. As an infant he witnesses an horrific accident that changes his life. Then he is involved in a car accident that changes his family irrevocably.The pain that Billy experiences makes him an emotionally withdrawn teenager who finds it difficult to make friends. He fights constantly with his older brother. He worries about his pill-popping mother (Geena Davis); his father has left the family and is in the process of starting a new one. Billy believes in nothing much except that accidents can happen when you least expect and can destroy everything that you love. Consequently he doesn’t love anything or anyone.
In an effort to change his life, he begins a friendship with a neighbour, however Billy’s hard-bitten attitudes endanger this relationship and the safety of others. It seems bad luck and unhappiness continues to dog the teenager and the Conway family. Whether the Conways can pull together their broken life is the story of the movie.
Performances are very strong. Director Andrew Lancaster has cast largely unknowns for this very different story written by Brian Carbee. Geena Davis is the American star and she shows subtlety and diversity in the role of the tragic and bitterly disappointed matriarch. Newcomer Harrison Gilbertson as Billy does a fine job of taking the weight of this feature.
ACCIDENTS HAPPEN is a strange film. An off-beat black comedy that asks the audience to hang in there with fractured people hoping that they will heal and move on with their lives. Some may feel it takes too long for this journey to unfold.This film is aimed at a more arthouse audience and isn’t about easy victories. It is darkly funny for those in the right frame of mind and eventually the hidden compassion and emotion of the filmmaker shows through.