A Heartbeat Away

A Heartbeat Away

Director: Gail Edwards
Starring: Sebastian Gregory, Isabel Lucas, William Zappa, Tammy MacIntosh and Colin Friels
Distributor: Hoyts
Runtime: 91 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Mild coarse language, sexual references and violence

Set in a sleepy coastal town in Queensland, A Heartbeat Away is a good-natured tale about corporate greed and the generation gap that may appeal to audiences looking for old-style Aussie entertainment in the mould of The Castle and The Dish.

Sebastian Gregory (Acolytes, Beautiful) plays Kevin Flack, a young rock guitarist with a fledgling band, whose overbearing father Ed (William Zappa) is bitterly disappointed at the seeming lack of ambition of his musically talented son.

Ed himself is the musical director of the Montague marching band, and twenty years ago, the band under his direction suffered a humiliating defeat at the regional marching band championships. This year’s competition is only weeks away, and desperate that the band retains the trophy they won last year, Ed is working his loyal, ageing musicians into the ground.

Two events conspire to snatch Ed’s dream from his grasp. Mel Riddick (Colin Friels), the devious Mayor of Montague, wants to transform the rundown cannery town into a tourist hub and Lobster theme park through a project development that requires the purchase of the very building in which Ed and his marching band rehearse. Then Ed is hit by a bus and becomes hospitalised.

Can the Montague brass band win the championship without Ed at the helm? Will the devious plans of smooth-talking Mayor Riddick and his cohorts on council be stymied? What does it take to adapt to a changing world?

A Heartbeat Away reveals most of the aces up its sleeve in the first ten minutes, and this adds to the sense of the film being predictable and to an extent derivative. But there are good performances from the cast, notably Gregory as Kevin, Tammy MacIntosh (All Saints) as Kevin’s musical, downtrodden mother, and Isabel Lucas (Home and Away, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) as Kevin’s love interest, Mandy Riddick.

Viewers will also recognise and enjoy other familiar faces: Roy Billings (Underbelly, The Dish), Kerry Walker (The Piano), and Neil Melville (The Hollowmen).

Deftly written by Julie Kincade, A Heartbeat Away is directed in the manner of a rock musical. The music has the upper hand with a number of pieces composed energetically by Guy Gross, and the production style is determinedly theatrical, reflecting the skills and proclivities of stage and television director Gail Edwards.

This works for much of the time, but not always. Sometimes the actors are hampered by being heavily choreographed, and this undermines the naturalism required by the story, which in essence is more akin to ABC TV’s SeaChange than to musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar or The Lion King.

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