Film: The Cost
Director: Matthew Holmes
While watching “The Cost,” at one point I experienced sudden rush of adrenaline or delight, it was a biophysical reaction to realising I was watching something entirely new. At this stage of the story, the audience could see several plot lines, characters and possibilities swirling around each other; who would triumph or how it would unfold was utterly unknown. The result was gripping viewing.
Director Matthew Holmes delivers a master class in realism. If the John Wick series shows revenge as a mechanical, non-emotive explosion of violence, ‘goodies and baddies’ and special effects; The Cost is at the other end of the spectrum. It is extraordinarily realistic and confronts the practical and emotional aspects of enacting revenge, in a modern Australian context.
The film was inspired by the shocking murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne in 2012, a case which brought the problem of violence against women into the National spotlight.
The protagonists are gripped by grief, simmering anger, and ethical disgust, they feel justice hasn’t been served. They want answers, accountability and what they view as real justice.
In some ways the film represents the powerless the public feel towards increasing levels of violence in the community and a desire take matters into their own hands.
The film could be read as an expression of the male response to violence against women. As a contrast to ‘patriarchy are the problem’ or ‘toxic masculinity’ type narratives, this film shows men deeply affected by violence against women and wishing to reclaim their protective role.
But the story won’t stoop to a simple good versus bad storyline. The murderer is given a full character, humanity, and we learn of the impacts the crime had upon on him. There is a deeper exploration of ethics and choices, but I won’t reveal more lest I spoil the viewing experiencing for others.
This film stands strong on the bones of substance: brilliant storytelling; art which engages with the problems of current society; skillful acting and quietly powerful cinematic angles. It goes into suburban Australian working people lives and deals with issues that relate to them.
It’s a film for the people. While not a documentary, The Cost could be of great practical use to the community. For example, it could be used in programs like ‘No to Violence’ or in secondary school’s curriculum. It would be particularly good for working with young offenders.
Taking this film around regional areas as well as Melbourne, the fantastic thing about home grown filmmaking is the accessibility of the Director and cast. Holmes approach is not simply to make a film, but he creates space for community discussion. Indeed he and his talented wife Nadia Holmes , (a pioneer in her own right via vegan Italian cooking), and their tribe create community through their art. The screening was followed by a long Q and A session with the audience, and what you see here is something that is democracy in action. Democracy needs its artists who help us all with sense-making, reflection on who we are, where we are going.
In a world of controlled narratives and increasing corporate control of creative expression, Holmes is a gift to the public, creating space for authentic art and community discussion.
Technically, the film might not pass the Bechdel test, which assesses how women are represented in a film. However, Holme’s forte is the male perspective, and bonds between men. When there are societal problems with male suicide and violence, there must be room for films that speak to men.
Overall, this is a high-impact film and as an Australian I celebrate the home grown voice it offers: one that is gutsy, gritty, confronts reality and the issues that matter. I also celebrate film-makers and actors who walk among us, talk to us; it’s a different, more egalitarian style from the Hollywood style celebrity.
The Cost can be purchased from JB Hi Fi Australia-wide on Blu-Ray & DVD.