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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

My Mistress

This BDSM-themed coming of age story gets points for originality but, all in all, the film feels a little limp.
By Tom Clift
November 06, 2014
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My Mistress

This BDSM-themed coming of age story gets points for originality but, all in all, the film feels a little limp.
By Tom Clift
November 06, 2014
  shares

Kinky things are afoot behind proverbial white picket fences. Made with the financial assistance of the Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund, the directorial debut of acclaimed local short film and music video director Stephen Lance takes your typically angst-ridden, po-faced Australian teen drama, and dresses it up in a full-body latex suit. A BDSM-themed coming of age story, My Mistress gets points for an eyebrow-raising premise and some bold stabs at Blue Velvet-style erotic voyeurism. Unfortunately, weak dialogue and clumsy characterisation soon leave the film feeling limp.

The leafy suburbs of Queensland provide the backdrop for the story, one that begins when delinquent high-schooler Charlie (Harrison Gilbertson) discovers his father's body hanging in the garage. Stricken with grief and consumed with anger towards his mother (Rachael Blake), on whose shoulders he places the blame for his father's suicide, Charlie seeks comfort in an unlikely relationship with Maggie (Emmanuelle Beart), a professional dominatrix who has recently moved to town.

It's a seriously strange set-up that, frankly, should have yielded far more interesting results. Lance shows adeptness behind the camera, and all three of the lead performances are quite strong. The problem with My Mistress lies instead with its screenplay, co-written by Top of the Lake creator Gerard Lee. The dialogue more often than not rings false, particularly when people are arguing, which they're doing almost all the time. There's also a baffling lack of consistency in the behaviour and personality of the characters, with Maggie and Charlie's relationship going from stable in one scene to downright hostile in the next.

It's also disappointing to see Lance adopt the very boring, narrow-minded position that the sort of niche sexual behaviour exhibited by his characters must be a symptom of some sort of dysfunction or inner pain. Charlie's emotional dependence on Maggie obviously has its origins in the breakdown of the relationship with his mother. Likewise, the film goes to great lengths to make us understand that Maggie is damaged: a former drug addict who has lost custody of her infant son. Wouldn't it be nicer to see a movie about S&M practitioners who are just in it for a rip-roaring good time? Fingers crossed for 50 Shades of Grey.

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