‘A Savage Christmas’ was significant.
In true Aussie style, ‘A Savage Christmas’ delivers memorable comedic one-liners and assembles a cast of quirky talent with all the charm of ‘Colin from Accounts’ (2022) and dramatic premise of ‘No Activity’ (2015-2018). Set mostly in the Savage’s once lavish home on Christmas Day, this debut feature film from Roaring Entertainment makes the point of teaching us about acceptance first hand, while showcasing a dysfunctional family we all can relate to.
A suburban Christmas day at the Savage’s, where mother, Brenda (Helen Thomson) attempts to play out her dream of a traditional white Christmas, in the hot Queensland summer. Her visions of all three children returning to her fold for a well-cooked feast, goes incredibly wrong, in true Aussie, slapstick fashion. But there are family secrets to reveal and childhood trauma that requires healing. We soon learn that Davina (Thea Raveneau) was previously David, the local shining footy star, prior to a three-year disappearance to find herself. James Savage Sr, portrayed by David Roberts, struggles with this concept and we want to believe that he is coming to terms with his son, now a young woman.
James Sr tells Davina’s boyfriend “the teacher tried to tell me about pronouns at school, but I was too busy staring at her tits”. There’s plenty of cringe, mostly for the right reasons.
This is the story of a family coming to grips with the changed identity of their adopted child and sibling. Endearingly, the adoption aspect doesn’t take focus, nor their racial differences. But, the difficulties arise from a difference in perspectives about gender. Newcomers Ryan Morgan and Rekha Ryan play Davina’s siblings Jimmy and Leia, both with their own stories of misadventure. They both showing understanding and familial love for their “sis” regardless of whether she’s “had the surgeries” or not. There is a lesson for viewers about acceptance of who we are, not the mistakes we make and the Savages, it seems, have made their fair share of errors.
Despite chaotic events, including a dead dog brought back to life, and a sweaty-wannabe-rapper being chased by a hit man, the undertone of right vs wrong permeates this story. A good example is Brenda who, while wanting her family to be one that says grace before meals, shows her non-charitable ways by feeding the dog the traditional cultural offering of their guest of honor. As mentioned earlier, the film has plenty of cringy moments.
Brenda: “Welcome, Kane! Love the name, very biblical, we love Jesus.”
James Sr: “Do we?”
The first feature film directed by Madeleine Dyer, ‘A Savage Christmas’ was set and filmed in Queensland and captures the turbulent trials of festive families at the holidays. At times this flick seems to be missing a soundtrack, but the experienced members of the ensemble fill the void charismatically. Uncle Dick (Darren Gilshenan) provides the gritty comedic thrills fans have grown to love, including when he felt “nine pound lighter” after a trip to the loo.
While the younger actors find their feet, the old hats of Aussie screen, Gary Sweet, who plays Peter the hit-man, and a brief cameo by Rachel Griffiths who makes an awkward doctor’s diagnosis, keep the ship afloat. There was no need for any special effects in a feature full of beat-boxing, backyard footy, a cute choir of travelling singers with disabilities (who Brenda and James manage to offend), a marriage breakdown and no sign of any kids (Oh, except for the two hit-man Peter leaves in the car).
Leia: “Would you really shoot for twenty grand these days?”
Peter: “Darl, I’d shoot for a carton of cigs”.
A little slow at times and relying on its’ more accomplished cast members, ‘A Savage Christmas’ packs a punch about equality and gender diversity, and leaves audiences with the notion that in the end, we’re all a little bit broken.
‘A Savage Christmas’ releases in Aussie cinemas on November 16. Check out the trailer here.