The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - Michael Dwyer

CANDY ★★★★ Di­rected by Neil Arm­field. Star­ring Heath Ledger, Ab­bie Cor­nish, Ge­of­frey Rush, Noni Ha­zle­hurst, Tony Martin Club, IFI, Dublin, 108 min THE fa­mous ad­ver­tis­ing tagline for Bon­nie and Clyde – “They’re young, they’re in love, and they kill peo­ple” – could be ap­plied to Candy with a sin­gle mod­i­fi­ca­tion, to in­di­cate that the young lovers in this Aus­tralian movie are killing them­selves.

When we first meet them, Dan (Heath Ledger), a would-be poet, and Candy (Ab­bie Cor­nish), a young artist, ap­pear to be on a nat­u­ral high rooted in their mu­tual at­trac­tion. When Dan in­tro­duces Candy to heroin, the rush is short-lived be­cause it al­most kills her, but she is hooked, and they fall into a down­ward spi­ral wherein their lives re­volve around feed­ing their habit.

Dan bor­rows money from an older friend, Cas­par (Ge­of­frey Rush), a chem­istry pro­fes­sor and fel­low ad­dict who knows he will never be re­paid. The young lovers then turn to other op­tions – cadg­ing off Candy’s fa­ther, pawn­ing their goods – be­fore re­sort­ing to des­per­ate mea­sures to fund their next fix.

“When you can stop, you don’t want to,” Cas­par tells Dan. “When you have to stop, you can’t.” Dan blithely ig­nores this warn­ing be­cause he doesn’t want to know, just as Cas­par clearly has not heeded his own ad­vice.

As the movie ad­dresses the in­ter-de­pen­dence of Dan and Candy, and one of them proves weaker than the other when cir­cum­stances force them to con­front their prob­lem, the film re­calls the har­row­ing cau­tion­ary 1962 al­co­holism drama, Days of Wine and Roses.

The ba­sis for Candy is a novel by Aus­tralian writer Luke Davies, who de­scribes his book as “thinly veiled au­to­bi­og­ra­phy”. In­deed, there is a per­sua­sive au­then­tic­ity to the screen­play adap­ta­tion on which he col­lab­o­rated with the film’s di­rec­tor, Neil Arm­field.

As the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Dan and Candy turns into a love tri­an­gle in which the third part­ner is heroin, Arm­field opts for an ef­fec­tively low-key treat­ment that is spar­ing on the histri­on­ics that have been the easy op­tion for many a di­rec­tor tack­ling outof-con­trol ad­dic­tion.

Candy is tough and un­flinch­ing in its harsh re­al­ism, yet com­pas­sion­ate and hon­est in deal­ing with its pro­tag­o­nists. The two lead­ing ac­tors re­spond with per­for­mances of touch­ing ten­der­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Cor­nish, who re­sem­bles the young Greta Scacchi, af­firms all the prom­ise she showed in Som­er­sault, while Ledger’s range and ver­sa­til­ity con­tinue to seem lim­it­less.

Lovers, happy junkie lovers: Cor­nish and Ledger in the hard Candy

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