Directed by: Rolf de Heer
Written by:Rolf de Heer
Starring: Gary Sweet, Helen Buday, Bogdan Koca
Released: May 8, 2003
Grade: B

It may only be showing in a handful on cinemas across Australia but those that have seen the masterful trailer, will itching to know how the film ends.  It’s Steve’s birthday.  He is woken up by his two children, Sam and Emma.  They give him his presents.  His wife Alexandra doesn’t give him his present.  He has to wait until he arrives home from work that night to get his “surprise”.

Steve then heads to work and goes about his day.  In fact, he gets a promotion – the ideal gift.  The only downside is a $1,000 invoice he gets from a security guy (coincidentally his next door neighbour) who has just installed for Alexandra, a massive security system on the home.  Back at the house, Alexandra is putting her “project” into place.  She has ordered a taxi for the kids and received the expected phone call.  It is time.

Returning from work, Steve expects a surprise party but it’s anything but.  The house is deserted, the lights and telephones don’t work, all the locks have been changed and he suddenly finds himself a captive in his own home.  Is this all part of the joke?  On top of the television is a video with the inscription “play me dad”.  He does and his world will never be the same again.

There are two ways to look at Alexandra’s Project.  Firstly, it is a wonderfully suspenseful film with ideal director and flawless acting.  Rolf De Heer (The Tracker) brings amazing intrigue to the story and you’ll be on the edge of your seat the whole way – don’t dare look away.  There are twists at every turn.  Stars Gary Sweet and Helen Buday give intensely brave performances that require them to draw on the deepest emotions.  Their roles also require full-frontal nudity with Buday spending much of the film unclothed.  I’d tip both to walk away with Australian Film Industry awards later this year.

Yet despite all the praise and all the adjectives I can use to describe DeHeer, Sweet and Buday, I cannot overlook the flimsy screenplay.  Driving home from the cinema, I reflected back on the film’s key moments and found the harder I looked, the more holes I could find.  To not ruin the plot, I won’t reveal specifics but in forcing the ending to work, DeHeer has made the events that precede it seem too manufactured.  Things fall into place too easily for Alexandra.

Don’t even ask what the message is.  It’s open to interpretation and don’t be easily led astray by the obvious conclusion most will draw from the ending.  In the final scenes, DeHeer tries to heavily influence our judgement in deciding who is good and who is bad.  I don’t believe it’s this simple and if this is DeHeer’s intention it is a fatal mistake.

Thus, Alexandra’s Project finds itself as a film which deserves both warm acclaim and heavy criticism.  What I can guarantee is that it will provide more than enough conversation exiting the theatre.