I'm a children's book author, radio presenter of 'By the Book' for Radio Northern Beaches, and freelance writer. Check out www.brydiewright.com for more about
Published May 9th 2017
Don't Miss Don't Tell
Trial by media is a derogatory term and no doubt some judicial proceedings have been unfairly influenced by news coverage and the public sentiment resulting. Is this always a bad thing? There are equally cases where the media, and I would include film in this category, gets it right. Without exposure by journalists or filmmakers, the public would often remain blissfully unaware of wrongs being committed by persons in positions of power and justice would never be realised for victims.
Don't Tell movie poster (image c/o- Don't Tell official Facebook Page)
I open this review standing on my soap box, grateful that new Australian film drama Don't Tell has been made but wonder why it has not been made before 2017. It is based on true events that took place at Toowoomba Preparatory School in 2001. I think the answer is that it has taken years for the media (and the law) to unravel the cloak of secrecy that has hung around institutionalised child sexual abuse in Christian boarding schools. It has taken time to drag the balance of power back to where it should lie, with the oft-silenced victims.
Don't Tell is an important film that I would urge every adult to see, regardless of whether the subject matter is uncomfortable. I want to reassure you that the abuse, though described verbally, is not shown in graphic detail. The importance of seeing the victim's fight for justice, far outweighs the more difficult to watch elements, that can't be ignored by a film like this either.
Sara West stars as the film's troubled heroine (image c/o- Don't Tell official Facebook Page)
The movie, directed by Tori Garrett and screenplay by Anne Brooksbank, Ursula Cleary and James Greville , tells the story of the abuse of an 11-year old girl at the aforementioned school. She bravely decides to reject a settlement and take her case against the school and the Anglican Church to trial, even though no such proceeding had resulted in a ruling for the victim before. Significantly, the trial changed how the Australian legal system would handle future abuse claims (not all for the common good) but brought media and public awareness to this issue. It also provided a catalyst for the Blue Card Childcare System and sowed early seeds for the ongoing Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Aden Young stars as justice-seeking lawyer Stephen Roche (image c/o- Don't Tell official Facebook Page)
I was drawn to this movie by the subject matter (though troubling) and the cast. I am relieved to say that neither let me down. It was brilliant and a welcome example of what Australian cinema can be when we drop the cultural cringe about our own stories and our own talent. I was most excited about up-and-coming actress Sara West, who plays the troubled youth Lyndal to perfection. I had first noticed West in a not dissimilar role in Rebecca Gibney's Winter series and I've been impressed with the emotional range and maturity in her acting. She is engaging and her ability to play the broken bird with a tough exterior is full of empathy. I hope she is recognised by the industry for her powerful performance.
When a new Australian film comes out, cast pedigree is important for cinema goers spoilt for choice. And though many may not find relative newcomer West the drawcard I did, it certainly will not do the film any harm that its lead and supporting cast includes film royalty Jack Thompson and Rachel Griffiths and seasoned performers like Aden Young (who sensitively portrays Lyndal's lawyer), Susie Porter, and Jacqueline McKenzie.
Impressive all-star Australian cast (image c/o- Don't Tell official Facebook Page)
The film is shot beautifully, paced perfectly and the haunting theme song by Missy Higgins, Torchlight, heightens the incredible pathos at the close of the film. The audience will be taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, mirroring Lyndal's attempts to reconcile the innocence of her younger self, with the broken reality of her adulthood. It's a rewarding ride though. Just be brave enough to take it. The victims of child abuse need for us to hear them.