Australian writer/director Kathryn Millard makes her feature debut with Travelling Light. She is better known as a documentary maker, script editor and dramaturg. Her short film, Parklands (1996), starred an up-and-coming Cate Blanchett and won an AFI award for Best Cinematography.

The director was born in Adelaide and wanted to make a film set there in the 60s and 70s to draw on her own experiences. I can’t imagine much happening in Adelaide in 1971 but apparently the American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg visited the Adelaide Festival of Arts in the early 70s. Millard says she wanted to make a road movie in the suburbs about conformity, prosperity and family expectations.

Millard marshalled a stellar cast including Pia Miranda, Sacha Horler, Tim Draxl, Marshall Napier and Simon Burke. On the production side she was supported by the talents of Helen Bowden, best known for producing the marvellous Soft Fruit as well as Tony Ayres’ China Dolls, and Australian cinematographer Tristan Milani (The Boys, The Bank).

I remember 1971 very well. At the time I was the teenage daughter of a Sicilian father and a Valium-taking mother and know only too well the era and the themes Millard is trying to tackle in this film. It is a pity that the result is so deeply clich?and stereotyped. The girl wants to be a photographer when, really, all any girl could expect was to be a teacher or mother, while the boy next door, who lives at home with his mother, works in television and is gay. There are no subtle messages here, just a litany of events through which the main character, played by Pia Miranda, who is 30 but looks more like she’s 15, will find the light and enlightenment.

Tim Draxl plays the closeted gay character. Sure to appeal to his legions of gay fans.

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