This Town: Film Review
This Town: Film Review
Cast: David White, Robyn Malcolm, Rima Te Wiata, Alice May Connolly
Director: David White
The most frustrating thing about David White's dramedy about a killer who's trying to find love in a rural town is that it never quite leans into what exactly it wants to be.
Blending goofy romance a la Eagle vs Shark while ignoring the fact it's heavily based on the David Bain story (a family's found shot dead, one sole survivor and a lot of questions dogging them through the years), This Town had some real potential to launch New Zealand cinema after the onset of Coronavirus crippled the cinematic world.
But This Town doesn't own enough of its ingredients to get it out of the country of quirky characters mire it sets itself into.
It's the tale of Sean (White, a fairly solid and deadpan when needed lead), a suspected murderer who wants to simply find the one. Signing up to a dating app on the advice of mates, Sean meets Alice May Connolly's Casey, one of the few girls who's unaware of Sean's past...
However, in smalltown New Zealand, the past is always around the corner...
Initially, This Town proffers some solid laughs, thanks to the deadpan delivery of lines and actions of a man who's clearly socially at odds with what's expected of him - and some inspired sight gags.
Yet once Robyn Malcolm's determined-to-get-her-man former police officer Pam comes in, the film loses a bit of focus and goes slightly off the rails as the weaker material starts to flail in the wind. It's not to pour scorn on Malcolm's performance, as she shows some strong comedy chops when required - her pairing with Rima Te Wiata as a local crime writer is inspired, but there's not enough of it in the film.
Hints of the comedy potential arrive towards the end with some clearly improvised dialogue poitning frustratingly to what could have been.
This Town never quite knows what it wants to be, and none more so than when the truth comes out, and the dramatic reveal is played too quickly to have the heft it needed.
Despite some wonderfully realised bucolic shots, and some adroit capturing of the small-town vibe, some of the issue with This Town lies with the character who should be the lead in it is frequently sidelined, gradually robbing them of the screen time that's needed and emotional arc that's necessary.
Working better for character moments, rather than a cohesive whole, This Town feels more suited to a finely honed web series, rather than a full-length film. It's certainly not a Town you want to reside in long-term.