Matching Jack

REVIEW – Filmink


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While its premise is a painful one, this warm, surprisingly funny and deeply touching film never feels maudlin.


On the scale of pure, unadulterated heartbreak, a dying child sits pretty close to the top. In terms of cinema, dealing with subject matter such as this usually sends a filmmaker down one of two equally unappealing roads: saccharine over-sentimentalising, or bludgeoning depression. With the kind of incisive skill that she displayed on classics such as Malcolm and The Big Steal, however, Australian director Nadia Tass navigates this material beautifully. Matching Jack paves a road of its own: it’s affirming and often funny, while never losing sight of the pain at its core

The moneyed-up Marissa (the charming and highly relatable Jacinda Barrett) and David (Richard Roxburgh in impressively remote, self satisfied mode) seem to have the perfect marriage. When their young son, Jack (another touching performance from Last Ride‘s Tom Russell), however, is diagnosed with cancer, the cracks first start to appear, and then bust wide open. In what could be a blessing in disguise, Marissa discovers that flashy architect David has been rifling his way through his female clients for years, and that if he has unknowingly fathered an illegitimate child, Jack may be able to receive the life saving bone marrow transplant that he so desperately needs. In the middle of this emotional mess, Marissa also embarks on a tentative romance with Connor (engaging import James Nesbitt), whose son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) has also been stricken with cancer.

Every decision that Nadia Tass makes with Matching Jack is a wise one: the film’s depiction of childhood cancer is painfully sad without being harrowing; the central romance between Marissa and Connor is sweet but never too cute; David is never simply painted as purely villainous; and the characters don’t quickly get over their hurt and grief for the sake of the story. Matching Jack is a wonderfully warm and moving film that does its plentiful heartstring-pulling in an honest, non-manipulative way.

– Filmink