The Boys - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Why couldn't this have been the film that opened the Sydney Film Festival? It is a terrific little film, visually inventive, and has uniformly excellent performances. It is demanding, unflinching and it has an important story to tell. And it fits in beautifully with the theme I nominated for the festival this year - Families Under Pressure.

For a film of a stage play which takes place almost entirely in a few rooms in one small house, it never looks static. The director is constantly moving the character, throwing us off balance, and observing his characters from every possible angle - including from the light fittings and power-points. I loved this aspect of the film - the "light-fitting cam." We sit up with the camera among the dust of the chintzy lights in the ceiling and feel the increasing charge of static electricity as the characters rub up against each other.

This is intelligent filmmaking for an intelligent audience. The director - another first-time director, Rown Woods - and the screenwriter, the very experieced Stephen Sewell, tell the story through flash-forwards which jump further ahead each time. They tell an intriguing tale about violence, but this is yet another film which doesn't actually show us the violent act. In fact, it almost "cheats" us of it... which is a very disturbing thought in and of itself.

This film tells us more about ourselves than we probably care to know, but we need to know it. John Polson is good as middle brother Glenn - particularly in his drunk scenes (although he tends to drift out of character sometimes. David Wenham is excellent as Brett Sprague, the eldest brother - and chilling. But for me, the standout actors are Toni Colette as Brett's girlfriend Michelle, his equal in every way, and Anthony Hayes, who plays the third brother, Stevie. Now these people are REAL!

Forget the comedies - it is these slice-of-life dramas which are defining the future of Australian film, as we speak. See it, before it goes to oblivion.