Crushed by Megan Riakos is my first foray into Australian independent film. Admittedly, the main reason I took my BFF to see it was because it was filmed at my good friend's winery in Mudgee.
Sarah, my friend with the winery (Burrundulla), sent me the link to buy tickets to the Australian theatrical debut of Crushed and having heard so much about it over the years, I jumped at the chance to go and what better excuse to catch up with your bestie than a trip to the flicks.
Crushed focuses on a young woman, Ellia Rose (played by Sarah Bishop), who returns to the family vineyard in rural Mudgee after the sudden death of her father - who it turns out was murdered as evidence of a cover-up is revealed.
Ellia had been based in Melbourne, since the sudden death of her twin brother two years earlier, in an attempt to make something of herself away from the vineyard. But it wasn't working out for her as from the opening scenes you get the impression her bed hopping and drinking are masking some pretty deep emotional issues.
Upon her return home, it becomes apparent her family are still resentful for her sudden disappearance to Melbourne and she has lost touch with life on the vineyard.
Things are definitely awkward and unsettled in the Rose family. Ellia's mother Sophie (played by Roxane Wilson) is arrested for the murder of her husband as it becomes evident she wants a quick sale of the vineyard which has been losing money and her affair with Uncle David.
The scenes between Ellia and Sophie are harsh and there is definitely no mother-daughter bond between the pair.
Uncle David (her fathers brother and played by Les Hill) is cagey, abrupt and a closed book when it comes to vineyard matters. He is shadowed throughout the film by two "farm hands" Ivan (played by Jamie Irvine) and Jessie (played by Aaron Glenane) - both wonderful characters whose presence enrich the story and their hearts really seem to be in the right place even in these dubious circumstances.
Ellia's younger sister Harriett (played by Millie Spencer-Brown) has basically taken over the vineyard since Ellia left and their father turned to alcohol following his sons death. Harriett is very bitter about Ellia dumping the family without so much as a goodbye and is very unwilling to listen to her sister's advice on the vineyard.
Her younger brother Zac (played by Remy Brown) is a damaged soul and protected by the rest of the family from everything that is going on - you really just want to give him a hug and apologize for the family he has been born in to.
And what is a murder, mystery thriller without the police, which of course is Ellia's ex-lover Lucas (played by Robert Preston) and BFF of her twin brother....queue sexual tension and the shared emotional loss of a loved one.
As the story chases Ellia forcing her into a web of intrigue and mystery in an attempt to save her own life, she becomes suspicious of everyone - and after watching the film, who can blame her!
When more people turn up dead, she is uncertain who she can trust. There are a lot of scary twists and turns - was it him, was it her, was it them? Was it for love, revenge, a cover up - or all three? What is the truth and what is a lie?
At the heart of this film is a family torn apart by loss and despair. The emotion feels raw, edgy and explosive. The back-drop of Mudgee is breathtaking. The music is amazing and sits so well with the script and scenery.
The genre is touted as a mystery thriller and it certainly is both.
I'd give it 5 out of 5 stars....not that I am bias.
Check out the trailer here...