South Western Times
Emotional ride made life-like
June Again Rated: M Review: Ben O’Shea In cinemas: Now
Watching June Again, it’s hard not to question the morality of using dementia as a narrative device in the same way other films use a character waking up from a coma.
The subject matter is, after all, a source of great pain for many families, who have witnessed loved ones battle this insidious disease.
That some scenes are played for gags, and others imbued with a magical quality normally accompanied by the cliched ringing of chimes, makes for an even more awkward viewing experience. Yet, somehow, it still
manages to work, and work quite well. Australian TV icon Noni Hazlehurst plays the titular June, a successful businesswoman, whose wallpaper company and family fall into disrepair in the five
years she has spent in a nursing home with dementia.
When she miraculously gets a reprieve from her illness, regaining complete lucidity for what will surely be a finite period of time, June sets about righting all the wrongs of the past half-decade, much to the bemusement of her adult kids, who are played by Claudia Karvan and Stephen Curry.
Directed and written by first-timer JJ Winlove, and produced by Perth’s own Jamie Hilton, the film seeks to find the middle ground between a poignant depiction of dementia and comedy.
A fraught tightrope to walk, to be sure, but, for the most part, Winlove pulls it off. This can mostly be attributed to a wonderful performance from Hazlehurst, whose portrayal of a dementia sufferer rings true when it matters most. As for the comedy, well, Curry proves once again he’s a natural.
When it comes to the question of how dementia is used in the movie, it should be noted there is some scientific basis to the idea of a person temporarily regaining their faculties after a prolonged period of illness.
The term for such awakenings, if you’re interested, is “paradoxical lucidity” and it has resulted in people with dementia becoming lucid for days at a time in rare cases, almost always immediately before their death (that’s not a spoiler, BTW).
While June Again is a work of fiction and not a documentary, working in more of the factual basis of the plot would, perhaps, ease some of the discomfort around its representation of a serious illness. Those who have no such qualms will find an Australian movie of modest scope that, despite a miniscule budget, delivers big in terms of genuine emotion — one that’ll make you laugh AND cry.