free to air
The arguable high point of Julia Roberts’s career to date is her fierce, Oscar-winning performance as the crusading whistleblower at the heart of director Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 drama Erin
Brockovich (Wednesday, 10.30pm, Ten). A twice-divorced single mother of three, Brockovich — based on a real crusader who has a bit part as a waitress — stumbles across the corporate cover-up of a chemical-laden water supply in the California desert. With the help of over-the-hill lawyer Albert Finney and biker neighbour Aaron Eckhart, Brockovich goes headto-head with the corporate suits, with extraordinary results. This was the film that catapulted Soderbergh from the art house to the cineplex, and he in fact won the best director Academy Award that year — albeit for his other high-profile release, Traffic.
Known primarily for her immersive, cuttingedge installations that explore mortality, grief and loss, Lynette Wallworth from Bexley North in Sydney has a much-deserved international reputation. When she branched into filmmaking this year, it was only logical that her subject would be an extension of those concerns.
The result was the AACTA-winning documentary Tender (Sunday, 10.50pm, ABC). This is perhaps the warmest and most human documentary made about death, as the Port Kembla council debates offering funeral services, only to discover that one of their own has terminal cancer. “We won’t be keeping bodies at the community centre,” one official reassures an apprehensive constituent, and the remark is emblematic of the fine line Wallworth walks between compassion, seriousness and the humour that inevitably surfaces as a defence mechanism against death.
Entertaining, thought-provoking and deeply rewarding, Tender is the week’s must-see film.
Another essential work that deals with the looming shadow of life’s end is Chilean-born director Alejandro Amenabar’s 2004 drama The
Sea Inside (Tuesday, 11.40pm, SBS). Javier Bardem shines as Spaniard Ramon Sampedro, a former sailor who has been paralysed from the neck down, bedridden for three decades and wants to perform an assisted suicide. As poignant as drama gets, the film resonates long after the closing credits.
Following his Spider-Man experiences with the studio system, former low-budget horror filmmaker Sam Raimi (the original Evil Dead) returned to his lurid roots. The result was the defiantly schlocky 2009 B-movie homage Drag
Me to Hell (Wednesday, 8.30pm, SBS Two). Beyond the catchy title, the film is an inventive twist on the idea of unshakable curses, as bank loan officer Alison Lohman must fight to save her life after a reclusive old crone whose mortgage extension she rejects puts a grisly hex on her. For those in the right frame of mind, this is good fun.