Has there been a more powerful Australian film starring so many talented female actors ? Dee McLachlan (writer, director, producer) has conjured such a strong, moving and disturbing drama, The Jammed, that to simply give it a moniker of “message movie” is to entirely under-sell what she has accomplished.
Insurance clerk, and ‘ordinary’ every-girl, Ashley (Veronica Sywak) is implored by Chinese visitor and mother, Sunee, to find her daughter Rubi (Sun Park). Reluctantly at first, Ashley starts making phone calls, putting up “missing” posters, and visiting seedy addresses. As she becomes more involved in the search, her own safety threatened, Ashley desperately tracks down every lead to uncover the whereabouts of Rubi. Her bravery and goodness is the narrative thread of this story and our ‘way in’ to the events on screen.
The other half of the story follows Rubi, Crystal (Emma Lung) and Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) – how they are tricked into slavery with the promise of jobs and employment in Australia, how they are locked in their room during the day, and how they are forced into prostitution during the night. Their performances are disturbingly powerful and show all too plainly how slavery, abuse and loss of self esteem is often not about chains or bars on the window.
The last film I saw that had this many talented women was Almodovar’s Volver and that required the experience and talent of ‘name’, Penelope Cruz to work as well as it did. In The Jammed, the young, and mostly inexperienced actors, produce characters that are raw and believable.
Most at contrast is the men in the film. While not large parts, they impose themselves so strongly that the women believe they do not have a choice. These characters are so well developed that at no stage does the screenplay slip into caricature of “bad guy”. Perhaps the ‘bad guys’ in the film are the men who visit these brothels?
What was most frightening to me about this film is that I recognised so much of the background. This was not some unidentified northern European town (as in Lilya 4 Ever), some vast American city or foreign Asian streetscape. This is Melbourne. My home town. This is happening under our very nose and we know nothing about it.
The film is inspired by “true events”, that is, as many as 700,000 women and girls are trafficked around the world each year. This could be three of them.
Recommended? Absolutely, but beware, some scenes are disturbing. 4 out of 5.
Post Script, Mrs Blog did not plan to watch this film but once started, didn’t stop. While she could not claim to “enjoy” this film, she was compelled to know what happened to these women.