I Miss The War is the fifth short film of Australian filmmaker Andrew Walsh (“The Comedian”, “Empire Of Nowhere”). It is a personal story about growing up after the loss of a loved one and the awkward family dynamics that ensues, but unfortunately the film doesn’t have a lot to offer and suffers from its faulty production values.
After the suicide of their mother nine years before, three estranged sisters meet again to commemorate the sad event and catch up with one another’s lives. Hannah Gott (“The Fat Lady Swings”, “Nailed Darlings”) is Annie, the host and probably the one who is faring the better: her acting career has yet to rise but she has the full support of her loving husband Ray, played by Kyle Webb. Sarah Golding (“Bird Song”, “On Air”) is Charlotte, the detached, cynical and addicted to pills eldest sister, while Laura Vine (“Always”, “Daughter”) is the free-spirited Stella who wouldn’t seem to have been too affected by the loss of her mother if it weren’t for her frenetic behavior. Her latest extravagance: getting married to a man twice her age she recently met on one of her many trips. Adrian, the man in question played by James Barr (“The Comedian”), is obviously tagging along to meet his sisters-in-law.
The many clashing personalities create enticing relationships between all the characters: despite their differences, the trio of sisters have a strong bond that makes their interactions feel real, with a good dose of comedy. Even when the acting is not at its best, the chemistry between them makes it work.
The men also have their own subplot: hypocritical Adrian keeps mentioning and stereotyping Ray’s indigenous ethnicity. This conflict between the two is by far the best part of the short film, especially thanks to Kyle Webb’s delivery of a powerful speech on racism. The speech however loses some of its power because of the actor’s white skin: it is almost jarring to hear him talk about being the victim of racial profiling or insults in the streets when nothing in his appearance makes him stand out from white Australians.
Besides these qualities, the film turns out to be rather empty: the basis on which the film stands upon seems to be the sisters’ way of coping with their mother’s death, but it is never given the space and emphasis it deserves. The film even ends abruptly on a scene that could have offered all of this and more.
In terms of production values, I Miss The War looks okay but is really lacking in sound quality. The dialogues (probably re-recorded in studio) are most of the time badly synced up and in one or two instances, the filmmaker used the audio recorded on set in the middle of a re-recorded dialogue scene. The transition is jarring as the quality of the recording suddenly drops tenfold. There is also very little soundscape: when characters are eating, there are no sound of forks on plate, of mouth chewing, of people moving around. This completely breaks the immersion, and unfortunately is a good example on the importance of sound in any film.
I Miss The War turns out to look less like a finished product and more like the introduction of what could be a great film. It still has its moments (the chemistry between the actors, the speech on racism) but would have benefited much more from a richer script and better production values.