Matching Jack

Will Make You Smile – Will Make You Cry


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It’s been quite a while since the Aussie team of Nadia Tass (director) and David Parker (producer/writer/cinematographer) have had their credits on our silver screens. Their new Melbourne production is a touching story of children with leukemia, coupled with marriage breakdown through infidelity, and the saving grace of an optimistic if rather wacky Irish philosopher. Unashamedly a tear-jerker, Tass pulls out all stops on this emotional journey, so bring a large box of Kleenex.

Merissa Hagen (Jacinda Barrett), her architect husband David (Richard Roxburgh) and their young son Jack (Tom Russell) appear to be a happy upper-middle-class family. One day Jack suddenly tires during school sports and Merissa takes him to the local doctor for some tests.

To her great dismay they come back positive for leukemia, and Jack is quickly placed in the cancer ward of the children’s hospital. Also at this time Merissa discovers David is having an affair; which comes as an additional traumatising shock.

In the same ward Conner (James Nesbitt), a charming if extroverted single parent, is doing his best to liven the spirits of his son Finn (Kodi Smit McPhee), also suffering the disease and gradually getting worse. Then it turns out philandering David has been sleeping around for ten years, with a noted preference towards blondes.

So there are perhaps a number of possible siblings who could have suitable bone marrow for a transplant which might save Jack’s life. Merissa sets off on a mission to find one of these suitable donors, while developing an attachment for the wildly buoyant Irishman.

With considerable audience appeal thanks to the sensitive direction of Tass (The Big Steal), providing excellent performances from her cast, while keeping the emotional level high. Co-written by David Parker with Lynne Renew, Parker also co-produced and the shot the movie. Tugging at the heart strings is Paul Grabowsky’s effective score.

Jacinda Barrett (The Last Kiss) carries a number of powerful scenes which she handles very well, more so perhaps than her screen husband David as played by Richard Roxburgh (Hawke -TV). Irish import James Nesbitt (Five Minutes of Heaven), in one of his most effective roles, covers the wide dramatic range with professional polish, having just a whisper of Malcolm, the character from Tass’s first film

Special mention goes to the children, both Tom Russell (The Tree) and Kodi Smit McPhee (The Road and forthcoming Let Me In) easily prove they’re up with the best of the experienced cast. The film features fine performances from both. The supporting players, liberally sprinkled with well-known television faces, might even take a lesson from the kids. A couple of the smaller parts aren’t strong, tending to be underwritten.

OK, so there are moments in the film which stretch your credibility to maximum. The really impressive visual scenes are the most fanciful – a magical ride through ward on a bed/boat, a hospital window smashing, a hospital bed surrounded by candles, and a taxi ride to Luna Park. They’re great images on the screen, enabled through crisp, clean cinematography of Melbourne with many innovative views. David Parker’s camerawork throughout remains sparkling throughout in often beautiful compositions.

The cynical-minded may suggest it’s manipulative, yet I found Matching Jack a touching, charming, sometimes tragic film with a message of hope, which remains in the memory. To quote Nadia Tass “with angst, pressure, complexity of relationships and a soaring emotional through-line, it will have you sobbing, and in the very next breath, feel delight in the absurdity and humour. It’s a celebration of the human spirit.”

– The Blurb