"Don't ever think we will forget you."
Clive Owen stars as a recent widower raising his two sons in Southern Australia in this poignant drama. Director Scott Hicks helms this unconventional story, which is adapted from Simon Carr’s memoirs. Owen, who also served as executive producer, plays sports writer Joe Warr, who’s suddenly a single father when his wife Katy (Laura Fraser) is stricken with cancer. Filmmakers pull no punches as their happy marriage shifts into a medical crisis.
The screenplay by Alan Cubitt depicts Katy’s cancer progression, even the difficult home care as her sudden deterioration diminishes her role as a mother, wife, and daughter. Joe, six-year-old son Artie, and Katy’s mother Barbara (Julia Blake) must now endure this family tragedy. The plot breaks key character life progressions into relatively short segments so audiences are not entirely subdued. The audience gets familiar with these realistic characters while the actors can showcase their talents.
After Katy’s passing, Joe’s rules become more relaxed while he juggles his work responsibilities with personal accountability. Owen’s poignant performance during a school scene where he opens his heart to a stranger is just one justification for some acting awards and recognition, which never happened.
Joe’s loosening household rules and “chore shock” ebb into playfully focused coping with Artie, played by Nicholas McAnulty, as they embrace the world with new freedoms, outlooks, and adventurous activities like a backyard zipline or driving down to the beach… with Arty riding outside. Household chores predictably pile up as Joe struggles to shape Arty’s newfound routines and daily structure. “It will get better, I promise,” says Joe.
Joe eventually verbalizes the new household rules once Harry, his son from a previous marriage, decides to visit. “Do as I tell you. I just don't like to tell you to do very much,” Joe says to Harry, well played by George MacKay. Joe and Harry have an estranged relationship, but show signs of hope, especially during a touching sequence where Joe tells Harry his rules on swearing. “Swearing is a sign of a limited vocabulary,” says Joe as Harry counters with a barrage of mainly British/Australian swear words.
The humor has an interesting common sense style. The household chaos situations would seem funnier without knowing the circumstances behind them. Filmmakers use this tactic in the beginning beach sequence, which initially puts the audience on the outside view as they’re eventually drawn into this dramatic story.