A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Paul Ireland
Written By: Damian Hill
Produced By: Paul Ireland, Damian Hill
Starring: John Brumpton, Damian Hill, Maeve Dermody
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Chronicling twelve separate but interlocking tales set over the course of one day in the suburb of Footscray, Paul Ireland and Damian Hill’s debut feature Pawno possesses a loud and true sense of hard-boiled Australian identity, which captures the many aspects of our modern culture. A multifaceted narrative which could be seen as the offspring of Clerks and Pulp Fiction set in Melbourne’s western suburbs, Pawno beautifully captures many slices of life, each adding their own element of what makes Australia so diverse and unique.
Following its ensemble cast over the course of one day, Pawno is a film in which nothing much happens, but in capturing the drag of everyday life (with a few sizeable surprises thrown in of course), it somehow manages to encompass everything.
Tackling a day in the life of twelve individual characters is an ambitious task in anyone’s book, yet Ireland and Hill capture the most important essence of everyday existence, which is the lack of depth and closure.
Les (John Brumpton) owns a pawnshop in the heart of Footscray. A hardened, down-the-line businessman who doesn’t suffer fools, Les, alongside his assistant Danny (writer Damian Hill), interacts with a vast array of human beings on a daily basis and acts as the bridge between most of them within the narrative. Some he knows more than others, whilst the majority are nothing more than customers looking to make a quick buck.
Over the course of the day, we see that everyone who enters the pawnshop is as unique as the next; each having their own story to tell.
Characters are briefly introduced and explored, only to disappear into obscurity for the remainder of the film, which appears to be precisely the point Hill and Ireland were trying to get across. Certain questions are unanswered and storylines are left unresolved, leaving the audience with a lingering desire to learn more about these people.
If you’re looking to full, rounded development, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’ll be given just the right amount to understand each character at face value. With Pawno, you’re more or less a casual observer of a particular culture, and Ireland and Hill are your tour guides. The only factor at play with this guided tour is that there is no tour, you’re left on your own to wander aimlessly and soak in the atmosphere organically.
The day-in-the-life approach offers a raw sense of realism that doesn’t allow for Hollywood closure, rather, it offers a brief insight into the compartmentalised Australian culture, which ultimately forms the love letter to the suburb of Footscray.
A film that is sure to remind some audiences of the classic episode of The Simpsons entitled ’22 Short Films About Springfield’, an episode which ultimately celebrates the immense diversity within a community, the structure of Pawno is seemingly scattered and disjointed, however as the film unfolds, we see there is in fact a sequential through-line in which cause and effect has a substantial part to play.
With no outright protagonist, the film bursts with a sense of honesty and street-level grit which is true to life. Jumping back and forth between these separate stories involving contrasting ages, genders, races, demographics, social statuses and lifestyles, Pawno almost feels like a documentary at times, complete with hand-held camera techniques and even elements of voyeurism thrown in to further its organic approach.
The focus on multiculturalism is both important and powerful. The film’s depiction of Chinese, Indian and Indigenous culture within contemporary lower class society could be seen as stereotypical, however when observing characters such as Mark Silveira’s Harsha or Mark Coles Smith’s Pauly and their brilliantly layered performances, it becomes apparent that the film has a lot to say about immigration, employment, opportunity or lack thereof, without directly addressing the topics all that much.
Cleverly getting their message across through implication and brief conversation on the subject, Ireland and Hill excellently give the film a new layer with a deeper, more impactful meaning.
The depiction of a suburb, a city, a country and a culture can only be truly captured through the characters that inhabit the space.
With all of its colloquialisms, profanity, outrageousness and diversity in both character and tone, Pawno offers an honest depiction of Melbourne’s contemporary melting pot culture. The film is heartfelt, humorous, poignant and moving, all within the space of one day, relying wholeheartedly on its ensemble to deliver unique and profound performances to carry the solely character-driven picture along.
Pawno is an achievement above all else and should be an inspiration for young independent Australian filmmakers to make something of their own. It’s proof that you don’t need an enormous amount of dollars to make an excellent film, just the right amount of sense.
There hasn’t been a truer on-screen depiction of contemporary Australian life in quite some time.