Dummy Movie Review
Preteen Jack (Grant) is struggling to cope with the death of his mother, the flamboyant free-spirit Elsa (Bradley in flashbacks). Besides taking on her role in the house, he has secretly dressed a mannequin in her clothes to keep him company. Meanwhile, his 18-year-old brother Danny (Johnson) thinks he can take on the parenting roles, although he clearly expects Jack to take care of himself while he spends time on both his girlfriend (Catherwood) and his budding DJ career.
The film has a beautifully rendered flashback structure that gives us more information as it continues, letting us see deeper and deeper into these young men and their life with their mother--things a visiting social worker (Brooker) can't possibly understand. Or can she? This flicking back and forth in time is intriguing and engaging, and it's also gorgeously shot and edited to create a vivid sense of the family dynamic, even as it also makes the film feel a bit choppy.
The two young actors are extremely natural in their roles. Grant displays a genuine sense of the smart, over-keen kid who has been forced to grow up too quickly; Jack is so tenacious that he's almost a force of nature. And rising star Johnson (Angus, Thongs) really gets under the skin of Danny's teen bravado. He's a typical 18-year-old, irresponsible but not thoughtless, naturally more interested in drinking, parties and girls than the raw realities of caring for a child.
As the story progresses, the soft-focus, free-wheeling past gives way to an increasingly creepy present. Jack's insistence on building this dummy in mum's place brings out a disturbing undercurrent that's ultimately pretty wrenching.
As these boys fail to deal properly with their grief, Jack's delusion is matched by Danny's self-destruction. And when they ultimately hit the road together, the film only barely manages to hang together. Especially when the story ultimately abandons the blackly comical tone for something much more dark and serious.