Frank Mollard (Anthony LaPaglia) is a real estate agent finding it difficult to sell a house at a reasonable price. One day he receives a call from someone claiming to be his mother – the only thing is that his mother passed away the previous year. From here, Frank sparks up a friendship between the caller and soon to be surrogate-mother Sarah (Julia Blake) – all the while he navigates an unending divorce with Justine Clarke’s Wendy and deals with work issues with his boss Phillip Lang (John Clarke).
Writer/director Matthew Saville has collated a fine cast of Australian talent with the always watchable Anthony LaPaglia in the lead. LaPaglia’s Frank is a fairly pathetic man who is struggling to find his place in the world during a time of change within his life. His mother has passed away, he’s in the process of getting a divorce from his wife who has suddenly become famous, he’s finding life selling real estate difficult. LaPaglia is solid as Frank, as is Justine Clarke as his ex-wife Wendy and John Clarke as Phillip Lang. Julia Blake is mostly fine in her role here as Sarah, a character who exists solely to appease a hole in Frank’s life.
Unfortunately, as watchable as all of these great actors are, they are let down by an aimless plot that lacks impact when necessary. Subplots aplenty take the focus off the central relationship between Frank and Sarah. There’s the subplot about Frank’s son doing a school play, or one regarding Phillip Lang’s father in a nursing home. The one that sticks out the most is the clearly telegraphed subplot involving a married couple who are looking to purchase a house and are constantly pipped at the post at auctions – it doesn’t take a genius to realise where this one will end up.
The problem with most of these characters is that they are all simply too nice. There is little conflict to create drama, but on the other side of this, there is not enough levity to turn this into a comedy. Frank is not doing great at his job, yet his boss gives him a free ride without much reclamation other than playing a round of golf. The basis of his ‘friendship’ with Sarah is his inability to let go of his lost mother, but besides what we are told, there is little to glean from Frank as a character in regards to his inability to move on. We’re never really given any real reason why he is separating from his wife other than ‘she got famous’. If there is a reason – it’s not evident within the performances or script. This instead feels like an adaptation of a book, where all the character development is left on the page – but this isn’t an adaptation, it’s an original screenplay.
This is not to say that there isn’t anything worthwhile within A Month of Sundays. There are some truly beautiful moments within the film – such as a trip that Frank and Sarah take to a vacant lot that used to hold a family house. It’s simply that there isn’t enough to warrant its two hour plus running time. The solid performances unfortunately don’t hold enough weight to carry a story that has been covered in many different formats before – the ‘elderly lady teaches slightly younger man a life lesson or two’. Just to tick off another generic ‘life lesson’ tale, there’s even a quite random mention to World War II which is played like the films big emotional moment, but instead is a ‘well, how did she know that?’ kind of moment.
A Month of Sundays should feel quite timely given the current political discussions surrounding negative gearing and housing affordability, but just like most of the film, it doesn’t actually have anything worthwhile saying about real estate that hasn’t already been said. It’s hard to complain about a film like this because on technical levels it’s very competent and well crafted – it is watchable and there are moments that work brilliantly. However, the sum of all its parts shows that A Month of Sundays isn’t as entertaining or as memorable as the title would suggest.
Director: Matthew Saville
Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Julia Blake, Justine Clarke, John Clarke
Writer: Matthew Saville