24 May 2012 | insomnia
Too serious a subject to trivialize.
Films dealing with children struck down with a life-threatening disease can either be uplifting, or, as is the case with most of the films tackling this kind of emotionally-charged subject, become un-abashed tearjerkers. Jack Hagen (Tom Russell) a previously normal, healthy child falls ill and is diagnosed with leukaemia. There is a way to stave off this disease and that is to for the patient to have a bone marrow transplant. The snag is the donor's DNA must 'match' that of the patient, hence the film's title. Jack's parent's hope against hope that the surgeon Professor Nelson (Colin Friels) will find a donor whose DNA matches Jack's. The longer they have to wait, the more dangerous the situation becomes: something the mother refuses to acknowledge. It is then that Jack's mother Marissa (Jacinda Barrett) discovers that her husband, David (Richard Roxburgh) has been unfaithful, and not with just one woman, either. From that moment on, the film shows Jack's mother's frantic attempt to track down her husband's former lovers in the hope that he might have fathered an illegitimate child, and therefore would be the perfect 'match' for her son. To avoid "Matching Jack" becoming overly saccharine, the director Nadia Tass, along with first time writer Lynne Renew, have bent over backwards not to fall into that trap. Instead they have opted to introduce large chunks of levity into the film at the expense of empathy, and in so doing, have turned "Matching Jack" from being a serious, though not necessary boring, film about cancer, into one that is risible by anyone's definition. Two films that tackle the subject of children at risk from life-threatening diseases, without in any way being tedious or un-interesting, are "Life For Ruth" where a father refuses to let his child have a blood transfusion due to his religious beliefs, and "Lorenzo's Oil" – where a father finds a cure for a disease for which no cure is known. The director of "Matching Jack" could have made a film with a strong, social message. Sadly, she didn't.