Only the Brave

1995 Directed by Ana Kokkinos. Starring Elena Mandalis, Dora Kaskanis, Maude Davey./////playing The Part/////d: Mitch Mccabe.

REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., May 5, 1995

Who am I? Such a simple question, yet its answer is so elusive. These two films are very different -- one is a brooding tale of lost teens in industrial Australia, the other a wry documentary about a well-bred Harvard coed -- but both turn on questions of identity and how one's sense of self can be consumed by environment. Only the Brave centers on Alex and Vicki, two teenage girls in blue-collar Melbourne whose strong spirits and artistic aspirations are deadened by their rigid, oppressive world. Alex is obsessed with the mother who left her years before and confused over her attraction to women, especially a teacher who's been encouraging her to write. Does Alex want a mother? A lover? Is she a lesbian? A writer? Or just a punk setting fire to hedges and getting stoned in the railyard? Kokkinos poses these hard questions in abbreviated, harsh scenes, sometimes beautifully shot but with jagged edges, like the shards of a shattered stained glass window. And like the window, the film has a disjointed quality, as if scenes or dialogue or something essential were missing. This and the film's unrelentingly bleak tone ultimately numb us almost as much as their world numbs Alex and Vicki. Playing the Part makes a stronger emotional connection, in part because of its lighter tone but also because filmmaker McCabe offers more complexity in showing how one's world shapes identity. The film turns on McCabe's desire to tell her wealthy, conservative, Grosse Pointe parents that she's a lesbian. To illustrate the difficulty of this, McCabe provides a detailed family history, complete with old photos and footage of the family manse. In these scenes and the offhandedly funny narration with them, we develop a keen sense of the people and places that have shaped McCabe's life, of tradition, order, propriety. We see McCabe's obvious affection for the life of her childhood and the echoes of her grandmother and mother that live on in her. Her unwillingness to abandon her past to establish her own identity makes this modest look at that perplexingly simple question surprisingly affecting.Only the Brave: 2.5Playing the Part: 3.0

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Ana Kokkinos Films
Head On
As the woefully conflicted young Greek-Australian Ari, the feral, dynamic Dimitriades is less a teenage house o' fire than a self-made neutron bomb: He may ...

Marc Savlov, Oct. 22, 1999

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


Only the Brave, Ana Kokkinos, Elena Mandalis, Dora Kaskanis, Maude Davey./////playing The Part/////d: Mitch Mccabe

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle