June Again: "The fog of memory"
Australian cinema is renowned for low-key films, such as Malcolm, Proof, Spotswood, Dogs in Space, Paper Planes, Red Dog and Kenny, that deliver significant stories with memorable characters in a restrained way. June Again fits the requirements for a modest, understated movie.
The wonderful Noni Hazlehurst is June, a resident at an aged care home. June’s dementia prevents her from remembering even the simplest objects, like a pen, let alone the cascade of memories that would build an understanding of her life as it is now and as it was before the onset of dementia.
A monumental turning point for June occurs when she wakes up one morning and discovers her mental capabilities are as sound as they ever were. She recalls her memories, her family, love lost, people’s names and events that happened before her dementia.
The slight hiccup is that June’s dementia has lasted for five years and in that time, her life and the lives of her family and her memories of those times have changed irrevocably.
Devon & June; Ginny, June & Devon
Marriages failed, business ventures collapsed, expectations were mangled and lives were damaged. In her inimitable way, June is determined to fix it all, even when her family insists she should deal with things as they are.
The doctor at the aged care facility also makes it clear that June’s clarity is fleeting. Her dementia will return. The clarity of her memories is a medical anomaly.
One thing remains certain, June’s demeanour, despite her daughter Ginny’s and our delight at the clearing of the fog of her dementia, don’t reveal June at her best. June is obstinate, hard-headed, irascible and dogmatic. Her thoughts and statements are one-eyed. No-one else can maintain a personality of their own if June has anything to do with it. June can be outright cruel, emotionally and psychologically.
June’s daughter Ginny, Claudia Karvan is creative and forward thinking; her son, Devon, is content with his restrained and relaxed life-style, including a gentle and caring partner. Neither of them need the trappings of success as defined, if not demanded, by June’s prompting and insistence.
Official Trailer June Again
The script for June Again is rough sawn. Predictability and conventional notions are evident. There are scenes and dialogue, that if they were excised, would not change the film one iota; they might even strengthen the film’s raw emotions. Don’t expect a light-hearted comedy. Although there are moments of comedy, June Again is dramatic with sizeable chunks of misfortune.
When the inevitable happens, June experiences momentary lapses of memory as a precursor to the fog of memory enveloping her again. Those moments are handled subtly and appropriately through careful edits. June again becomes a person whose memories fail her but her family rallies around her. Perhaps all the issues that have divided the family are resolved too quickly and easily but let's just say the film's heart eclipses all the difficulties.
There is one magic moment at the end of the film that highlights a touch of serendipity between two people whose love and connection are memorable. You will get teary-eyed.
One thing is definite, you can’t go past the wondrous actor who is Noni Hazlehurst. Claudia Karen is conflicted and contradictory as the caring and loving daughter, Ginny, both when assisting June in aged care, and during June’s period of clarity. Ginny embraces her mother, literally, yet descends into frustration and despair when June belittles and derides her creative nature and business entrepreneurship.
Recent Academy Award winning movie, The Father, delivered an exquisite and stark exposition of a elderly man experiencing dementia. June Again is not as polished but shines for one reason—Noni Hazlehurst's performance as June. Regardless of the flaws in the story, Noni delivers.
Ginny & June; June alone
I initially thought June Again would complement another recent gem of an Australian film, Last Cab in Darwin, with both films dealing with elderly individuals who experience end-of-life and mental limitations. I recommend viewing both films, but the film that parallels June’s decline, ascent and decline again is Charly, an American movie that accounts the rise of a man with a significant intellectual disability, Charly, and his ascent to genius before finally descending to his original intellectual disability.
But, regardless of other films with which to compare June Again, we can say that June Again, as a standalone movie, is flawed, but has a huge heart.
June Again (2020)
Screening in Australian cinemas now. For international release dates, check your local cinemas and streaming services.
PLEASE NOTE: A follow-up blog post, Last Cab to Darwin, to supplement the review for June Again, has been posted. I suggest you read the two reviews in tandem as they have similar themes and ideas.
And Last Cab to Darwin is a bloody good Australian movie.
Last Cab to Darwin (2015)
READ Eclectic Stefan's Film review:
NOTE: This post will complement the review of June Again on Screen Speak.
A terminally ill cabdriver (Michael Caton) picks up an indigenous drifter (Mark Coles Smith) and a backpacker (Emma Hamilton) while traveling through the Australian Outback with a determination to end his life on his own terms.
WATCH: Last Cab to Darwin (You Tube)
(Based on the novel Flowers for Algernon)
Charly Gordon (Cliff Robertson), who has an IQ of 69, is constantly derided by his boss and fellow employees at the bakery where he works. His efforts to read and write prove challenging. Dr. Straus offers Charly an opportunity to participate in a radical medical experiment. His intellect surges. The newly educated Charly develops feelings for his teacher, Alice Kinian (Claire Bloom), but their happiness is threatened by an unforeseen, tragic complication.
WATCH: Charly (You Tube)
The Father (2020)
READ Eclectic Stefan's Film review:
(Previously posted on Screen Speak)
Anthony is 80, mischievous, living defiantly alone and rejecting the carers that his daughter, Anne, introduces. Despite Anne’s best efforts and encouragement, Anthony's grip on reality is unravelling. The Father embraces real life, through loving reflection upon the vibrant human condition; heart-breaking and uncompromisingly poignant - a movie that nestles in the truth of our own lives.