The Second is a refreshing breeze through the often stuffy corridors of the Australian film-making industry.
Written and directed by early-career artists Stephen Lance and Mairi Cameron respectively, it is firmly grounded in the sub-genre of psychological thrillers with writer protagonists. A writer with a hugely successful first book behind her is struggling to write the notoriously difficult “second” work. In order to meet a deadline, she drives out to the rural Queensland mansion (filmed at the beautiful Jimbour House), once owned by her even-more-famous, writer-father. She takes along her publisher/lover and intends to spend the week writing and making love. But then her childhood friend, whom she hasn’t seen for decades, turns up.
Was her previous book (a memoir), about this woman? Was it true? Did she really write it? Is what’s happening now real or in her imagination? And how did that boy die? The classic layers of the author-thriller are all there, and beautifully peeled away in Lance’s script.
The always sensational Rachael Blake as The Writer moves seamlessly from control, to hysteria, to sensual abandon. Vince Colosimo takes on a slightly different role for him in the publisher/lover, working an uncomfortable chemistry and giving us a weak and yet sympathetic character. The final piece in the puzzle is Susie Porter as the Friend/Muse from the past: another complex and very real woman.
Mairi Cameron directs these three actors in a psychological and physical dance around the historic corridors, rooms and gardens of Jimbour House, allowing the setting to become a fourth character, especially in the late-father’s hallowed study. Cameron also uses the incredible landscape around Jimbour, giving cinematographer Mark Wareham plenty of material. Outside of the house, Martin Sacks gives a chilling but controlled performance as The Brother.
Along with the psychological thrills, The Second also delves into the writing process, explores how creativity can be overshadowed by a famous parent and delivers a strong sense of the female gaze.
This work is gripping, subtle, often humorous, sexy and sophisticated.
Premiered at the Gold Coast Film Festival this year, The Second is currently available on Stan.