When you think of words like “The Second” it’s easy to be dismissive and consider it something sub-par. In the context of the new Australian film, it’s all about a writer grappling with penning her sophomore novel. But this plodding, psychological drama ultimately comes off as second-best due to some issues with its pacing and rendering.
This film marks the directorial feature debut from Mairi Cameron and is written by Stephen Lance (My Mistress.) The plot is a rather convoluted one that attempts to do too much within its 92 minute timeframe with no storyline ever really hitting its mark. In it, we have a successful author known as The Writer (Rachel Blake) being interviewed about the inspiration behind her works and the machinations of her craft. On the flipside, she is also whisked away by her publisher (fellow Lantana star, Vince Colosimo) to a gorgeous mansion in the countryside to provide and finish that elusive follow-up tome.
This may sound all nice and idyllic but it isn’t. What could have been a quiet working holiday is disrupted when The Writer’s childhood friend, The Muse (Susie Porter) shows up for a visit. The Muse is a damaged and enigmatic woman. She hasn’t seen her childhood buddy in years because The Writer hasn’t ventured home in all that time. The pair reconnect and revisit memories from their teenage years that have been long since repressed. This creates friction with The Publisher, especially when he learns more about the pair’s past.
Martin Sacks plays a character linked with their ancient history. He is left reeling from the tragic death of a young boy. The Writer’s novel shares similar plot points with what we learn are real-life circumstances, which leaves the question, “Where does the truth end and the fiction begin?” The film is full of complex contradictions and muddied waters. The audience will be left to contemplate whether the Writer is a villain or a good person. There are a lot of questions left unsaid, but whether people will care enough to consider them is a cause to be seen.
The film is self-aware and does feature a number of different stories embedded within the main narrative arc. But you get the sense that this is often taking itself a little too seriously. There are moments where it’s trying to be sexually-charged but these scenes are perfunctory at best. The actors are all veterans of Australian screen and they do the best they can with the source material but we know that these themes have been dealt with before in a much more entertaining manner.
The Second shows a writer revisiting her hometown at a time when the past comes back to haunt her. The premise is interesting enough in theory but this rendering is far too slow-burning and convoluted to really cut through. The Second is the sort of drama that will make you think twice and not necessarily for the right reasons.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Second is in select cinemas now and streams on Stan Australia from July 20th.