Review: Tarneit

Directed by John Sheedy and written by Elizabeth Packett, inspired by stories of a distant place, best friends Tyrone and Clinton must fight to find a way out of Tarneit, a place surrounded by violence and tradition. Starring: Calvin Black, Antanhe Zewdu, Antanhe Zewdu, Nicholas Coghlan, John Mashar and Huon Collidge.

One of the most unique and strongest elements of Tarneit is how John Sheedy overlaps reality with the youthful imagination of its lead characters. It creates a grounded but artistic style which is both enjoyable and engaging to watch. The imagery Sheedy employs is impactful in multiple ways, tapping into a harsh reality and an everyday feel, as well as a naivety and hopefulness. It’s a superb blend to truly hold the weight of this story while never losing the youth of its characters. It manages to soften the atmosphere without ever undercutting the emotions and message of the story. Making it both sympathetic, kind and impactful.

Elizabeth Packett’s writing moves back and forth between a heart-warmingly sweet friendship and a toxic environment. Ultimately it boils itself down to a story of resilience and strength, asking whether at such a vulnerable age: can you fight against the negative, punishing influences around you? It then answers that question in a hugely satisfying, clever and unexpected manner. It moves with a quick but thoughtful pacing, never rushing but never overly still. It also avoids ever scandalising or over dramatizing the grit to this story, it’s entirely clear but Packett refuses to cheapen it by going for shock, remaining real and honest.

It’s always a joy to see more diversity on screen so to have this short led by two deaf actors, let alone leading a queer story, is fantastic. Calvin Black and Antanhe Zewdu give performances that are both different and similar. They bring an individual struggle to their characters, the issues that they face are not the same but they share a common hope and a strong bond. Black and Zewdu both bring a liveliness and determination in their portrayals. They create brilliant examples of how children can be much stronger than you give them credit for.

Tarneit excels in having both harsh and sweet sides to its story. With Calvin Black and Antanhe Zewdu leading the way with their infectious but complex energy, giving us a story that is both layered and simple, tackling a difficult situation with a powerful friendship. John Sheedy and Elizabeth Packett both sublimely capture a balance of life’s injustices and its rewards, creating an atmosphere which is artistic, moving and never sacrifices its youthful optimism for realism, when it can easily achieve both.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯✯ | 10/10

Reviewed as part of Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival 2022

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