Growing up alienated


Only the brave
Directed by Anna Kokkinos
Starring Elena Mandalis and Dora Kaskanis
Reviewed by Jenny Long

This film won best film in the Dendy Awards for Australian short films during the 1994 Sydney Film Festival, and I went to it with high expectations. I was not disappointed. The film is a very realistic and sympathetic view of life for two Greek-Australian working-class girls, growing up on the industrial outskirts of Melbourne.

Friends Alex (Elena Mandalis) and Vicki (Dora Kaskanis) are struggling to get out of their dead-end world of alienation, abuse, vandalism and sexual repression. Each for different reasons, they hold on to a dream of escaping to Sydney to find Alex's alcoholic mother, who might help Vicki start her singing career. Events rocket them into a tragic spiral out of the reach of help, and it is only when it is too late that they understand each other.

It is with her partly sympathetic teacher, Kate (Maude Davey) that Alex receives encouragement for her writing and a tiny chance to express her sexual desire — not for the boys around but for her women friends. One of the tenser scenes of the film is when Vicki lies down with her head in Alex's lap, in a cry for affection that Alex, knowing her own real feelings and the stigma against lesbians, is terrified to give.

The film is tough, harrowing and, despite the moments of tenderness, ultimately bleak but touching. The sympathetic understanding conveyed to the viewer of the girls' real-life choices makes the film extremely powerful and explains why it has won such a swag of Australian awards. Very highly recommended.

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