The Pretend One
Directed by Tony Prescott
Written by Tony Prescott and James Raue
Produced by Tony Prescott and Dinusha Ratnaweera
Starring David Field, Garaldine Hakewill, Michael Whalley, Fiona Press, Benedict Wall, Elijah Perris and Alice Roberts
“Who would have thought one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, emotional and complex on-screen relationships in Australian film history would be between an adult woman and her imaginary friend.”
by Matthew Eeles
Being given the opportunity to be one of the first in the world to see a new film, is being given the opportunity to get the obvious out of the way first.
The Pretend One will inevitably draw comparisons with Drop Dead Fred.
It’s not just the new Australian film’s narrative which will remind viewers of the 1991 US comedy, but the two leads will too. Geraldine Hakewill is as drop-dead-gorgeous as Phoebe Cates (albeit a much better actress), and there are noticeable similarities between Michael Whalley and Rik Mayall’s hallucinatory personas, Hugo and Fred, right down to their red hair.
Thankfully, that’s where the comparisons end.
The Pretend One is set on a cotton farm run by Roger (David Field) and his daughter Charlie (Hakewill). It’s a few kilometers out of town and a busy work-life means there’s not much time for socialising. From Charlie’s point of view, there’s a third person on the farm – her imaginary friend since childhood, Hugo (Michael Whalley).
Charlie and Hugo’s unbreakable bond is threatened when Charlie starts crushing on Guy, a reporter from the ABC who’s come to town to make a documentary on locals and their love lifes. When Hugo realises he’s in love with Charlie, he tests his boundaries and fights to become real himself.
While The Pretend One is perfect in every aspect, the film’s greatest strength is in its performances. Both Hakewill and Whalley are completely compelling as the two leads, but David Field has never been better. The Australian acting legend gives the performance of his career as true-blue Aussie farmer Roger, who may be responsible for Hugo’s fabrication.
Who would have thought one of the most beautiful, heartfelt, emotional and complex on-screen relationships in Australian film history would be between an adult woman and her imaginary friend. Tony Prescott and his screenwriting companion James Raue haven’t delivered your typical romance. The Pretend One’s topical themes of mental illness are explored in ways seldom seen across all forms of media. This love story is deep, heartbreaking and slightly troubling, but there’s also a beautiful lightness to it.
If Tony Prescott and co have taught us anything with The Pretend One, it’s that it’s ok to think outside the box when it comes to story. Be imaginative, be daring, be surreal. The Pretend One is a fantasy film and it’s a timely reminder that not everything we produce in Australian cinema needs to be based so firmly in reality.
After all, an imagination is a terrible thing to waste.
The Pretend One is due for release in 2018.
Cinema Australia’s Star Ratings: Brilliant (5 Stars), Must See (4 Stars), Good (3 Stars), Average (2), Crapola (1 Star).