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  • Warning: Spoilers
    We've had a few dramas that deal with terminal cancer patients making the most of their limited time, including Hawks with Timothy Dalton and Anthony Edwards, and the recent The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson having the time of their lives. But when a film deals with young kids dying of leukemia then it becomes especially moving and heart wrenching. And that's what we get with Matching Jack, the first film in over a decade from the film making team of Nadia Tass and David Parker (Malcolm, The Big Steal, etc).

    The pair have astute commercial sensibilities, and their films have picked up numerous awards along the way. For most of the past decade Tass has been working on television dramas like Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story, etc. Tass returns to feature film with this moving drama about a mother's desperate struggle to save her son.

    When previously healthy Jack Hagen (Tom Russell) falls ill and is diagnosed with leukemia, he ends up sharing a hospital ward with Finn (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Finn's widowed father Connor (James Nesbitt) is eternally optimistic and up beat despite his son's illness. While waiting to find news of a marrow donor who could potentially save Jack, Marissa (Jacinda Barrett) discovers her husband's infidelity. Desperately she tracks down his former illicit lovers in the hope that one of his illegitimate offspring may be the match Jack needs. A strong friendship develops between the two boys, while Connor also comes to respect Marissa's strength and resilience.

    What could have been an overly saccharine film is given large injections of warmth and humour. Working from a script penned by Parker and first time writer Lynne Renew, Tass deftly mixes pathos and tears with generous dollops of winning humour. There are a few bits that stretch credulity, such as Connor giving the two boys a ride down a hospital corridor on a bed transformed into a makeshift boat, and the boys going on a secret outing to Luna Park.

    The film has been beautifully acted by the solid cast. Irish import Nesbitt is very good as Connor, and gives a sensitive, nuanced performance. Barrett gives a heartfelt performance as Jack's distraught mother. Richard Roxburgh is good as the sleazy David. While the adult performers are all good, it is the two young boys who give the movie its heart and soul and solid emotional punch. Russell (Last Ride, etc) is very good as Jack, while the consistently excellent Smit-McPhee (The Road, Romulus My Father, etc) is superb and continues to impress.

    Matching Jack is a shamelessly manipulative tear jerker of the first order, and cinemas should hand out boxes of tissues with every ticket sold.
  • It's a shameless tear jerker that must have some feelings of shame as it disguises itself as a love story in the summery presented on this page, and as a film that "avoids emotional extortion of any kind" in the words of the Jerusalem Film Festival catalog. But tear jerkers have their right to exist and many do like them, I don't like them much but that's not the reason that got my rating as low as 7/10. My biggest problem was that everything happening in this film follows the kids cancer film cliché. Nothing unexpected happens here, the only reason it still works is the fact already mentioned in my title - superb acting by everybody on the cast the whole thing is believable because everybody on screen is simply super, and that's something to see. The director has chosen a low key approach for herself and simply lets her story play out - it also suits the case. A little more originality and this "tear jerker" could've been a real gem. As it is, what you get is exactly what the story promises.
  • jotix10014 January 2012
    Warning: Spoilers
    A young boy, Jack, at the center of the story, is striking with childhood leukemia, something that comes from out of nowhere. His devastated mother, Marisa, only alternative is to find a bone marrow donor so she can save her son's life. Tragedy strikes Marisa again as she finds out her husband David has been cheating her with other women for years. David has kept a log about his female conquests, something that Marisa clings to in case Davids has fathered a child by any of his lady friends.

    Jack's roommate is the young Finn, whose Irish father, Connor, tries to amuse by bringing boat pieces that are fitted to his hospital bed. Connor is a man that loves the sea. He becomes Marisa's ally as they try to deal with their children's maladies. Being so close, Marisa sees in Connor, a widower, a friend and a man she can love because he is just the opposite of her cheating husband.

    This Australian melodrama was shown recently on cable. Not having a clue as to what it was about, we took a chance based on director Nadia Tass previous film, "Amy". The screenplay is by Lynn Renew and David Parker. AS films of this genre go, "Matching Jack" could have been a tearjerker, of the first order, but Ms. Tass saves the story with her strong direction and the acting she got from her cast.

    Jacinda Barrett plays Marisa with equal parts of rage and sweetness. Best of all in the film is James Nesbitt whose Connor feels real in the love for a son after losing his own wife. Instead of wallowing in sadness, Connor decides to keep on going in order to do what his son Finn would have wanted from him. Richard Roxburgh is fine as David. The two children, Tom Russell and Kodi Smith-McPhee give credible performances.

    Melbourne serves as a backdrop to the film which is photograph in all of its beauty by David Parker with a musical score by Paul Grabowsky. Despite its grim subject, the film sends a positive message.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Oh dear. Am I the only movie goer who can -- and loves to -- suspend disbelief IF ONLY THE LITTLE ANNOYING DETAILS CHECK OUT AS TRUE!!?? I started off loving this movie. For 15 minutes. Love Tass/Parker. Or Loved Tass/Parker. Love Roxburgh. Love Melbourne as a great back-drop city. Thought all the acting terrific -- especially the boys -- wonderful -- great -- terrific actors in very small parts (Colin Friels; Gina Turner (? sorry if I got the name wrong) Amanda Muggleton -- and then -- and then -- the twee factor set in. Was it the Disney influence where, so I read, Tass/Parker have been working in for years of late? Whatever it was (I know what it was) the cutesy, Mary Poppins element took over with the inevitable sacrifice to truth. A terrible incident in the early hours of a big city hospital -- audible to the street below -- without even the scream of an approaching police car??! Obviously-disguised children allowed to escape a ward for terminally ill children in the middle of the night, while all the staff on the front desk did was nod and smile??! (And where did they get the money for the taxi??!).

    Big, emotionally-fraught scenes by ALL the actors (except the boys) were left with no following residue for the next scene. Therefore all the tears -- including the copious ones I initially believed from the lead actress -- left me cold and uninvolved because I simply could not believe them. It was a film made with 'Takes', not emotionally involved continuity between true characters.

    I was left with a big, cranky yawn. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL!! If you don't, you will NEVER get your audience to accept the BIG PICTURE.

    Such a shame. Shallowness in the script (I am a scriptwriter) ruined, for me, what could have been a lovely -- and true -- film -- which could have rewarded well all the wonderful actors in it.
  • Technically competent and adequately performed Hallmark fare. Nadia Tass has to be a contender for Australia's own version of the "Otto Preminger Upward Failure" Trophy - an infamous award from Esquire Magazine accorded to the Swedish Hollywood director who started his career with a half decent film and got steadily worse thereafter. Since "Malcolm" (1986) , it's been downhill ever since for Ms Tass - and yet she seems to get automatically funded. It must be a Melbourne thing (ref Paul Cox et al).

    This film stinks on every level - because of its disguise as a quality film. It's cloying cast mug and perform by numbers. The plot comes from a weekend Robert McKee course and the resolution would probably even send hallmark executives asking for a shootout. The soundtrack is also pure saccharine, just in case you miss the point. There's no meat on any of the bones in this - it's all predictable and "charming". UUgh.

    Avoid at all costs.

    Oh, the score of 2 is for the her husband's cinematography ... which is excellent, as always.
  • 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.
  • Interesting that the comments for this film are very lukewarm but this film could have been far worse than it worked out . Get a little kid , give him a life threatening illness and if that's not bad enough get his mother to find out that the boy's father is a total slag who likes to play away from home and you've got a disease of the week type TVM that causes audience diabetes down to sugary manipulation by the producers

    I'm not entirely sure what stops it from descending in to pure cynical mawkishness but I can make a very good educated guess and that is the cast work very well along with a screenplay that fleshes out the characters . James Nesbitt might be one of those divisive actors but here his oft played cheeky Irish chappy is put to good use and makes for a genuinely likable character in a film that whilst never being classic drama is at least watchable