Directed and Written by Brendan Cowell
Starring: Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimitriades, Abbey Lee, Brenton Thwaites
Alcohol. It is a drug that for some reason is socially acceptable when much less harmful drugs can potentially carry jail time. It is a strange situation, and it plays a major factor in this story. Ruben Guthrie won an award, you see, for an advertising campaign. So, as any proud Aussie would do, he decided to celebrate, culminating in him being so wasted that he decided jumping off the roof of his house into his pool was a good idea.
Ahhh, alcohol, such a benign drug. He of course manages to miss the centre of the pool, breaking his arm, and lucky to not wind up in a hospital. Cue his girlfriend walking out, telling him to get off the sauce for a year and then to come find her in Prague – her hometown.
365 days without a drink. Can Ruben do it? Could you do it?
At the insistence of his mother, Ruben begins to attend AA meetings, making sure to say “I’m not one of you”. He gleefully mocks the program, until some members of the group help him see the reality of the situation he has put himself in. Why was he up on the roof in the first place? After initially scoffing at it, Ruben begins to enjoy the AA program and begins his quest to go 365 days without touching a drink.
Unsurprisingly, his friends don’t take to this new persona very well. Its “Un-Australian” to not have a drink we hear at one point, as everyone from his father to his boss to his estranged best friend don’t like this new persona. They want their friend back, they want their fun-loving buddy back. This shows a staggering ignorance to drinking problems, which are real and should be respected by a person’s friends and family. The opposite is the case here, as the film accurately portrays the binge-drinking culture that we have down here in Australia. His friends think he is weird for not drinking. He is suddenly an outcast when asking for a water rather than alcohol.
Once Ruben is entrenched in the AA program, the movie truly skewers it, as Ruben begins to act as if it is a cult. His friends see this, and try desperately to talk sense into him. His life is now revolving around the meetings, annoying his friends even further. When he refers to AA as ‘the movement’ the script doesn’t make it subtle that Ruben has been transfixed by the spell of AA, finding a ‘higher power’ and admitting that he is powerless over his problem with alcohol.
I have been to NA meetings myself. I went through that typical ‘Hi my name is…” etc etc. Being forced to admit that I was powerless over my addiction was something I had a major problem with. That and I don’t believe in any sort of higher power, but it was admitting that I was powerless that really irked me. How can I recover if one of the first steps is to essentially give up?!
Now please don’t think I am trash-talking folks who have gone through the program – it only makes me happy to learn of someone has succeeded in quitting their vice. But with a five percent success rating, I have serious reservations about the entire thing.
Tangent over, let’s get back to Ruben. He meets a cute girl in his new group, and from here unfortunately the film falls down hard, as the solid foundation that had been built turns into a standard rom-com. While offering some great laughs, some very dark in nature, it loses its steam because of this change in focus. The original premise was promising… If only they had stuck with it for the entire movie without muddying it up with romantic sub-plots.
The character of Ruben is well written. He is typical of many Aussies, and he goes through so many different phases it can hard to know what he will do next. None of the other characters are really developed, but Ruben benefits from a strong character arc. Patrick Brammall is great as Ruben, while a special mention has to go to Australian TV regular Alex Dimitriades as Ruben’s gay best friend. Its clear he had a blast with that role.
This one is good for a Friday night watch, with a beer or two just for the fun of it. This is a simple movie with a simple plot and a lot of laughs. I still can’t help but feel though that the premise of the film could have been explored in much more interesting ways, rather than the story devolving into a predictable love triangle. The first half of Ruben Guthrie is easily its best, though unfortunately it is downhill for the second half, punctuated by an extremely frustrating ending that suggests the writers didn’t know how to end their story. Definitely worth a rent as there are some great laughs to be found, but not much more.
Half a six-pack, poor Ruben will have to make these beers last.
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Nice review, Jordan. I won’t watch it. I come from an alcohol-based culture and long line of drinkers. Some made it to the end of their lives as high-functioners, some fell through the cracks and caused themselves and others a lot of grief. Some are truly social drinkers and can go days or weeks without a beer or cocktail. I, myself, I look forward to 4-7 for cocktail hour and I hope I never have to give that up. Cheers, mate!
Cheers Cindy! and I totally get where you’re coming from, it is a pretty realistic film too
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Hello, my name is Ashley and I’m an alcoholic. ‘In recovery’ as they say. I attended AA for two or three months every day back in 2006. No alcohol for me for almost ten years save one binge about 7 years ago. AA would have me discount those first three years. I don’t think I could have stopped without AA.
However after those few months I was well and truly sick of it. Thinking is kind of frowned upon. Etc etc etc. Pff! I also didn’t find it helpful to keep on repeating ‘I am an alcoholic’ though I accept that that’s what I am, i.e. it’s not going away. I do not wish to be the person I was when I was drinking; I did not like myself at all.
I really appreciate what you say about alcohol being acceptable while other drugs (yes, drinkers, ALCOHOL IS A DRUG. D’uh!) less harmful are illegal.
Ok. I’ll shut up now, lest I write a whole book here. 🙂
Oh, yeah, the movie. It sounds interesting but only a little and I think it would probably irritate me.
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It is an interesting movie but I certainly can understand why you wouldn’t want to see it. That’s interesting that you say that they helped you for three months but then you got sick of it. Did they help you build coping skills or did you find support elsewhere? Sprry if I am prodding too much.
And amen to alcohol (and tobacco) being illegal – the two deadliest drugs. That’s what this movie highlights well, how drinking and getting ‘smashed’ is a regular part of our culture when its a drug like any other
In the words of Bill Hicks: “Its okay to -drink- your drug!”
You can ask me whatever you like – I’m more than likely to respond. 🙂
It strenghtened my spirituality but I needed more – Taoism is good for me; more a philosophy than a religion. I don’t much care for religions, though I respect other people’s beliefs. I do believe in a ‘higher power’ but I call it The Universal Spirit or just The Universe. I feel it is the same thing that other people call God.
I just couldn’t swallow everything that AA was telling me. And I was SO sick to death of hearing cliches from people sharing. And I started feeling worse after a meeting rather than better – things were rankling me and I didn’t feel I could express my thoughts without undermining the recovery of some people.
One of the major bonuses was the occasional radiant person. It was a great help to see that it was possible to become free. Another was (to begin with) having a place to go to people understood eachother. A place without (much) judgement.
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I felt a similar way with NA. At first it was great to meet people in the same position, but it didn’t take long – like you said – the meetings started making me feel worse afterwards rather than better. I’d feel the cravings worse after the meeting than before.
I also was guarded and was extremely uncomfortable telling my whole story, as it is rather dark, and while there isn’t much judgement, it is still there. My problems were more than just drugs, but I never felt comfortable really letting it all out. Thankfully my spell in rehab changed all that! 🙂
Thoughtful piece. I love your sentiment regarding the process of AA. I have been fortunate with my problems so far. I have problems for sure. The other week I about cleared out an entire cabinet worth of liquor for the fuck of it. The worst part of it was, it was all my dad’s stuff so I gotta owe him back for that. I feel like shit about it. If I were to ever attend a meeting, I would be seriously butting heads with the whole “surrender to a higher power” part to, because I firmly believe there is absolutely nothing out there that will save us in the end. Human beings are bags of chemicals and stardust. That is it. But these are my views. If anyone wants to question me on it, they’re not going to get a response from me because that’s where I stand and, frankly, I don’t give a damn about anyone wanting to disagree with me.
I think this movie would frustrate the living fuck out of me to be completely honest. Not so much the descent into rom-com territory (though that’s disappointing to read about on its own), but the apparent accuracy of how it depicts those who don’t believe in their friends taking care of a long-standing and possibly life-threatening problem. Fuck people like that. That’s bullying of the worst kind and it makes my skin crawl just having to read about it.
Amen and amen brother. Surrendering to a higher power – and they actually claimed to be non-religious! And yeah, its weird watching his friends pressure him into drinking, and a lot of that is because it is a massive part of our culture. I am looked at weirdly cos I don’t drink.
Sucks to hear about your dad’s grog mate. When I was an addict I certainly did things I am not proud of so I think I know how you feel =/
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