A tad bloated and uncompromisingly bleak, Blessed is buoyed by its impressive ensemble cast.
Blessed is based on the play ‘Who’s Afraid of the Working Class?’, which featured four separate yet thematically similar stories each written by a different playwright, and it is a structure which would have suited Ana Kokkinos’ film adaptation, when compared to the multiple story weaving ensemble found here, which has been ever so popular since the race themed Crash took home its (undeserving) Oscar for best picture.
Set during one day in the lives of five lower/middle class families, Blessed focuses primarily on the relationship between mothers and their children, aka blessings.
Split into two parts, the viewer is first introduced to teens in varied states of distress, most of whom are runaways exploited in an uncompromising world. Harrowing scenes are depicted with an unflinching eye, that will make many a parent grab on to their children and never let go.
The focus then shifts on the mothers of these children, and the addictions and insecurities that they struggle with on a daily basis.
Kokkinos’ jumble of sub plots inadvertently decreases the impact of some stories when compared to the instant effect of others. A sub-plot or two needed to be shed during the adaptation process for Blessed to be a much more effective drama, with the Stolen Generation themed story line a glaring admission, due to its overtly political tone and mature age of its “blessing” (played by Wayne Blair).
In some instances sympathy is hard to come by, with Anastasia Baboussouras and Sophie Lowe’s irritatingly spot on shit talking teens not the most empathetic figures.
Equally frustrating is a lack of focus towards its tone, with some moments akin to an after school special, and others wallowing in art house pretentiousness, as seen in its dissatisfying conclusion.
But it is in its performances where Blessed lives up to its name.
A cast of fine young and veteran talent inhabit rich characters, flexing their artistic muscles in an impressive display of dramatic acting.
Of particular mention are Victoria Haralabido, as a working single mother who believes her runaway son has died; and Frances O’Connor, who defies “bogan” caricature with an equally aggressive, unflinching, and mournful turn sure to earn accolades come awards season.