“You’re nearly fifty, you know – you’ve got to do something with your life!”
When his mother dies, a 49-year-old bachelor (Norman Kaye) begins dating a pretty, inexperienced young woman (Wendy Hughes) with overly controlling parents. Though Kaye and Hughes get along famously, Hughes’ sexual repression eventually puts a kink in their relationship.
Australian director Paul Cox became known to U.S. audiences with the release of this amiable, sensitive romance about two awkward souls falling in love. Kaye and Hughes — fixtures of Australian cinema — are both impeccable in the lead roles; gorgeous Hughes somehow manages to instantly convince us that her “mousy” character is repressed and awkward, while balding Kaye radiates a unique kind of confidence and likable quirkiness (his grin says so much!). The screenplay is gently paced, never in a hurry, instead showing us the natural unfolding of this new couple’s love and respect for one another. They go out to eat and drink; listen to records; take leisurely strolls and kiss; have dinner with Kaye’s controlling sister (Julia Blake) and her husband (Jonathan Hardy); and join a local theater production of Strindberg’s The Father, run by a hilariously overwrought martinet (Jon Finlayson). Lurking in the background is Kaye’s desire to begin a sexual relationship with Hughes, and Hughes’ fear of this inevitable progression. While one wishes at times for a bit more explanation of certain character traits — Kaye’s struggle with kleptomania comes out of nowhere, for instance — it’s difficult to quibble with the overall sincerity of this sweet Australian flick.
Favorite (reaction to a) line: “A Swedish pastor.” (!!)
Note: Cox’s other Peary-listed film is Man of Flowers (1983), also starring Kaye.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Norman Kaye as Peter
- Wendy Hughes as Patricia
- Jon Finlayson as George
- Jonathan Hardy as Bruce
- A sensitively filmed tale of emergent romance
Yes, for the stellar lead performances, and as a fine, refreshingly unassuming romance. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book. Winner of the Australian Academy Award for Best Picture.