Australian indie film The Longest Weekend, which received its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival 2022, keeps its focus tight on the lives of three adult siblings in Sydney’s diverse Inner West, whose plans get ripped apart when their estranged father comes back into their lives.
From the outside all seems well with the middle-class Palmer family, living in one of Sydney’s formerly-edgy-now-gentrified-but-quirky neighbourhoods. But there is a divide between them. The three siblings, Avery (Elly Hiraani Clapin), Lou (Mia Artemis) and Rio (Adam Golledge), all dodge their mother Sadie (Tammy Macintosh) when she calls. Uptight Avery is dealing with her own strained marriage. Lou is a wild child, hooking up with random girls on drug-fueled binges, unable to keep down a job. The youngest, Rio, is listless, wasting time playing games and watching TV with no plan for the future. When they each descend on their mother’s home—without realizing she’s gone away on a holiday—they rub against each other, and things only get worse when Rio decides to meet up with their father (John Batchelor) who abandoned the family years ago.
The Longest Weekend feels theatrical, partially due to the limited filming locations and its wordy, demonstrative script by Jorrden Daley making her feature debut. Director Molly Haddon and cinematographer Jack Shepherd do wonders, finding new angles in the confines of a single, narrow terrace house to keep the visuals feeling fresh and bright. The film does a great job capturing the spirit of Newtown—historically Sydney’s alternative queer neighbourhood—and there is a strong sense of the bars and pubs and the joyful streets of terraces filled with artistic spirit. But the film doesn’t overcome the familial melodrama at the core of its story.
Ultimately, the Palmers aren’t that engaging as subjects, and occasionally they’re outright unlikable. Splitting the narrative three ways reduces the time we have to connect with each, so skimming the surface. Of all the siblings, the one which really clicks is Mia Artemis’ Lou. Given the juiciest moments of the film, it is through Lou’s experiences that we start to see the carnage of their family history.
The Longest Weekend feels like a team of creatives stretching their legs into a bigger playing field, but playing it rather safe. While the elements are coherent, they are overly-familiar and don’t quite pull together into a compelling or novel drama.
By Chad Armstrong
The Longest Weekend premiered at the Sydney Film Festival 2022.