Obsessive personalities can be and often are difficult to live with. But as “Children of the Revolution” indicates, they make the best revolutionaries.
Written and directed by Peter Duncan, this Australian mock documentary concerns Joan Fraser (Judy Davis), an unrepentant Communist of the old school. While other people are involved with the mundane activities of life, Joan fills her waking moments attending political meetings, handing out leaflets, marching and, when needed, going to jail.
So taken with the notion of traditional Bolshevism that she virtually deifies Joseph Stalin (played broadly, if briefly, by F. Murray Abraham), Joan is delighted when she is invited to Moscow for a face-to-face meeting with the Soviet leader.
And this is where “Children of the Revolution” takes a side road to bizarre-ville. For Joan ends up sharing a night of passion with the old lecher that has at least a couple of consequences - the most important of which may be that she becomes pregnant.
Perfect. For like a number of women who are more comfortable with ideas than with actual people, Joan lavishes all her attention on her son (played as an adult by Richard Roxburgh). Her long-suffering husband (Geoffrey Rush of “Shine”) and her would-be lover, a double-agent (Sam Neill), receive only the leftovers, of which there are precious few.
As always, however, such singlemindedness comes at a cost. And the exact price in Joan’s case begins to appear over the years as her son grows up and, gradually, develops some very disturbing - if all-toofamiliar - characteristics.
Including a bushy mustache. And a taste for terrorism.
The balance that writer/director Duncan strikes is weighted, at least in the first half, toward comedy. For the most part, “Children of the Revolution” works as a clever commentary on political irony and on the nature of true revolution and what comes with it.
The second half, though, takes a dramatic turn. And the major result is that the irony gets a bit heavy-handed, the jokes a little too few and far between.
But Judy Davis is her usual, intense self, a caffeine-laced character trait that is perfect for Joan. Neill is his typical calming influence. Rush, while the opposite of his Oscar-winning turn in “Shine,” is the film’s most sympathetic soul, and Roxburgh is magnificent as Joan’s troubled son.
Overall, this is an intriguing little movie - well-filmed, well-directed and intelligent in its unsparing study of both political and individual idiosyncracies. It’s a little tightly wound at times for effective parody, but Duncan provides us plenty of other compensations.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION” *** Locations: Magic Lantern Cinemas Credits: Directed by Peter Duncan, starring Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Richard Roxburgh, Geoffrey Rush, Rachel Griffiths, F. Murray Abraham Running time: 1:42 Rating: R