Though extremely capable of outlasting others on a deserted Fijian island, it is Pia Miranda’s AACTA award-winning performance in 2000s Looking for Alibrandi that will remain her careers most enduring achievement. Almost twenty years since its release, Looking for Alibrandi remains a shining – albeit rare – example of multicultural representation in Australian film.
On the other end of this multiculturalism-in-film spectrum comes the 2019 Italian-Australian romantic-drama Promised. A film which promotes diverse storytelling yet becomes saturated in melodrama. It is surprising to learn that arranged marriages aren’t entirely uncommon among Italian families. The shock of this prompting characters in Promised to associate arranged marriages with Indian culture.
Through the gaze of writer-director Nick Conidi, whose upbringing in 1960s/70s Australia provides inspiration for the film, Promised attempts to be an introspection on progressivism. Instead, it becomes a schmaltzy romantic-drama that is marketed off the back of the films high-profile casting of Tina Arena.
Since childhood, Robert (Daniel Berini) and Angela (Antoniette Iesue) have been promised into marriage by their fathers. Now both in their twenties, the return of Robert puts into motion their impending nuptials. An act that throws into a tailspin Angela’s relationship with both her father (Paul Mercurio) and her boyfriend Tom (Santo Tripodi).
The ambitions of Promised to detail the experiences had by Australian’s of diverse backgrounds remains as just that. Ambitions. Viewers are treated to a downright baffling story riddled with bizarre plot points (connections with the mob, anyone?), nonsensical secrets, and dialogue so wooden that the cast will be plucking splinters from their teeth.
Conidi’s dialogue creates further problems when he expects the audience to be invested in Robert and Angela’s tepid relationship. The foundations of their relationship being so poorly and hastily constructed that their dynamic goes from ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ to ‘who-cares.’
Promised is a film whose failure would have a greater impact on more than just box-office. So infrequently are Australian audiences treated to films with multiculturalism at the core that every misstep heeds a message to prioritise the production of another Palm Beach (2019).
It is a feat that makes no promises of progressing multicultural storytelling and prevents the likes of another Alibrandi from coming into fruition. On a filmmaking level, Promised is a disappointing romantic-drama that finds most of its enjoyment for reasons unintended.
Promised screens in cinemas across Australia from 24 October 2019. For more information, visit: www.umbrellaentfilms.com.au for details.
Image: Promised – courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment
Review: Hagan Osborne