In­spir­ing tes­ta­ment to a life re­cov­er­ing its har­mony

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

DI­REC­TOR Kaye Har­ri­son’s doc­u­men­tary fea­ture The Sun­ny­boy shows men­tal ill­ness hasn’t ex­tin­guished singer, song­writer, gui­tarist and painter Jeremy Ox­ley’s un­de­ni­able charisma. That charisma helped Kingscliff-raised ju­nior surf­ing champ Ox­ley (pic­tured) stand out from the mu­si­cal pack as the young front­man of great 1980s Aus­tralian band Sun­ny­boys. It also made him a com­pelling and in­spi­ra­tional sub­ject for Har­ri­son’s film – a tes­ta­ment to the heal­ing pow­ers of mu­sic and com­pan­ion­ship. Har­ri­son (who also helmed ABC doco se­ries The Long Good­bye, about three fam­i­lies liv­ing with de­men­tia) chal­lenges the stigma as­so­ci­ated with schizophre­nia in The Sun­ny­boy by shar­ing Ox­ley’s ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘‘Peo­ple nor­mally only hear about the acute end of it and of­ten as­so­ci­ate it with vi­o­lent acts, but this is the mi­nor­ity of cases and only oc­curs when those who are liv­ing with schizophre­nia are let down by the health sys­tem,’’ she says. Ox­ley was di­ag­nosed with the con­di­tion – not usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with hope and pos­i­tive out­comes – in 1984. He self-med­i­cated with al­co­hol binges for years, but turned a cor­ner five years ago when he met Mary Grif­fiths through mu­tual friends. The cou­ple mar­ried in 2011. Grif­fiths, a nurse, worked with Ox­ley and his doc­tors to find the right for­mula to man­age his health is­sues. Har­ri­son’s film charts Ox­ley’s re­turn to the fold on sev­eral fronts: health, fam­ily and mu­sic. The heal­ing in­flu­ence his wife had on his health may be at the film’s heart, but The Sun­ny­boy does not sug­gest love cures all. In­stead, it shows how treat­ment and a lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment helped Ox­ley ac­cept – or at least man­age – di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment. Scenes re­veal­ing Ox­ley’s pain, his fam­ily’s de­spair and ob­sta­cles en­coun­tered by his wife are punc­tu­ated by belly laughs and pear­lers, deliberate and ac­ci­den­tal, which fall from the lips of Ox­ley at his whip-smart best. The film in­cludes great old footage of the Ox­ley brothers grow­ing up in Kingscliff, com­pet­ing in ju­nior surf comps (Jeff Gil­more, Steph’s dad, taught them to surf) and play­ing their first shows. Fans of the band Sun­ny­boys will find the film – which boasts a rock­ing sound­track – es­sen­tial, re­ward­ing view­ing. An­chored by Ox­ley’s charisma, Har­ri­son hopes The Sun­ny­boy helps peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand schizophre­nia and boosts the self-es­teem of those liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness. ‘‘Jeremy is a fan­tas­tic story to tell be­cause of what he has over­come . . . it shows what can hap­pen with the right treat­ment and the right lov­ing en­vi­ron­ment. He is an in­spi­ra­tion,’’ she says.

The Sun­ny­boy: Sun­day, 9.30pm, ABC1

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.