Melbourne Classics: Blessed

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Ana Kokkinos’ Blessed is a powerful tale of dysfunctional family life in contemporary suburbia.

An adaptation of Melbourne play Who’s Afraid Of The Working Class? the film is set in the western suburbs and follows the stories of troubled teenagers estranged from their parents. They wag school, shoplift and get wasted under railway bridges. Knee-jerk conclusions about neglectful parents are shattered in the second half of the film, when the mother’s stories are revealed.

Performances in Blessed are outstanding. France O’Connor won a well-deserved Best Actress AFI for her portrayal of Rhonda, a struggling single mother whose love for her children is primal. In Kokkinos’ words, she is “the mother mainstream media loves to hate”. The roles of close friends Katrina (Sophie Lowe) and Trisha (Anastasia Baboussaras) burst with life, whilst Eamon Farren’s depiction of exploited street-kid Roo tugs at the heart strings.

Blessed is notable not only for its intimate look at socioeconomic issues, but also its poetic cinematography. The connection with characters is strengthened by close-up camera angles, whilst the dilapidated back-streets of Footscray are softened by a crisp, golden tinge. Melbourne’s beaches are proudly showcased in astonishing shades of blue.

Blessed is a powerful piece of cinema, touching upon the taboo issues of youth suicide, sexual abuse and poverty with a profound sensitivity. Yet the tone of the film is neither gritty nor harrowing. Rather it is a delicately woven tapestry of stories that, in their entirety, are confronting yet strangely beautiful.

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