DIRECTOR: Dee McLachlan
CAST: Emma Lung, Veronica Sywak, Saskia Burmeister, Sun Park, Todd MacDonald, Masa Yamaguchi
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
Eschewing a glossy treatment, this social thriller looks at human trafficking and the sex slave trade in Melbourne.
Inspired by actual events, it doesn’t show the Australian governmental deportation policies or the officials who enforce them in a good light.
While the story is about three women who are trafficked from the Far East and eastern Europe and end up in a dingy brothel with no way out, the storyline centres on a fourth woman.
Lured by promises of work, the women have ended up working as prostitutes because they “owe” the people who brought them to the country and they have no access to either the authorities or their families.
Ashley (Sywak) is drawn into a world she knows nothing about when she reluctantly helps a Chinese mother look for her daughter. Using no special knowledge other than common sense, Ashley tracks down Crystal (Lung) and tries to help.
But, like the best-laid plans, things don’t turn out the way anyone thought they would.
By day you see Ashley navigate her ordered world where she works for an insurance firm and goes on blind dates in Moroccan restaurants. This is a completely different place to the night-time world she starts exploring. The sad part is when she finds out how these two worlds merge.
The individual stories of the three women, Crystal, Vanya (Burmeister) and Rubi (Park) aren’t explored enough, with the emphasis more on how trafficking impinges on the ordinary Australian person and how the two different worlds – the cultured light side of Melbourne and the dark dingy illegal side – collide.
Still, it is refreshing to see how Australians navigate their world instead of the steady Hollywood stream passing through our cinemas.
This film would’ve been a tough sell in Australia itself though, as it comes down hard on the complicity of regular folk in the illegal trade of people.
While Ashley doesn’t want to get involved at first, she finds she cannot just stand by and do nothing and her conversion to reluctant hero is realistic and convincing.
SA-born, though now an Australian citizen, so an immigrant herself, director Dee McLachlan doesn’t turn it into an action movie, keeping the thriller more realistic and in keeping with what regular people would experience.
She keeps the pace up and the sentimentality down, and the cinematography alternates beautifully between saturated colour shots for certain interiors and desaturated shots for the emotionally draining moments.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks and fast-forwards, but it creates a linear narrative that makes sense once Ashley becomes the focus.
If you liked… Little Fish or Oyster Farmer… you will like this.