Review: “Head On”

You’ve probably guessed by now that I go to the movies to be entertained. Sure I like the thought-provoking independent stuff and I prefer films that mix both qualities, but if I had a choice I would likely choose studio films most of the time. They may not be as well-written or original but I usually have a good time.

That maybe why “Head On” an intriguing Australian independent film that’s getting as much publicity here as US blockbusters, is so hard to quantify. Is it challenging? Yes. Do scenes from it stick in your head? Definitely. Did you feel entertained? Not sure. This is one of those films that is hard to quantify on a rating’s scale, and really makes you think long & hard before answering ‘Yes’ to the question “Was it a good film?”.

Similar to “Trainspotting”, the film provides a graphic and uncensored look at the life of a young male rebelling against the system and seeming to be on a course of self-destruction. But whereas “Trainspotting” relied much more on the drug-taking community of Scotland, “Head On” focuses on the ethnic communities in Australia. Forget the wacky characters, this is harsh and very realistic with scenes many people can picture happening in their own households (eg. Ari’s family dinner scene).

Rather than relying on the one issue, it focuses on Ari (Dimitirades) – a young, gay, drug-taking, Greek-Australian who despises not only other cultures but his own as well. Dimitriades is fantastic and totally believable as the burned-out Ari, always looking for satisfaction of some sort in the here and now, whether it be a pill-popping from plastic wrap bags to sex with various uncooth-looking strangers in back alleys. The film basically belongs to both Dimitriades and director Ana Kokkinos who takes a difficult subject matter and films it with skill, experience, a light touch of occasional humour, and uncompromising rawness.

This is by no means a film for the family – its a movie containing a very graphic masturbation/frontal nudity scene in the first three minutes, numerous racial remarks, a scene of dangerous police brutality, and a long and intense sex scene between Ari and Sean (and believe me there’s lots more than those four things). Nevertheless, it isn’t as shocking as it sounds and while teenagers and conservative audiences will giggle, squirm or walk out at various scenes – the average mature moviegoer won’t be offended and can really consider the points Kokkinos tries to come across with in the film. T

That point being that it doesn’t matter if your Greek or English, gay or straight, good or bad – not everyone has the same dreams of succeeding at their job and starting a family, some have no aims for life and like it that way. The most interesting reactions will be from International audiences whose only exposure to Aussie cinema is cliched humour like “Crocodile Dundee” to more modern mainstream stuff like “Muriel’s Wedding”. They are the ones who will find this a shock to the system.