starring Vince Colosimo, Maria Theodorakis, Judi Farr, Nicholas Bishop
screenplay by Roger Monk
directed by Tony Ayres
Walking on Water opens with the sight of Gavin (David Bonney) puking his guts out in the final, agonizing stages of AIDS. Having bid goodbye to his mother (Judi Farr) at last, he wants to be euthanized under the supervision of best friends Anna (Maria Theodorakis) and Charlie (Vince Colosimo). As Gavin lies fading from an intentional overdose of morphine, an impatient Charlie suffocates him with a plastic bag, a moment played first for squirmy laughs, then for wrenching melancholy, Gavin's death rattle a sad stroking of Charlie's cheek. (The taciturnity of the film's characters is so successful in making us repress the particulars of this sequence that its emotional payoff bushwhacks us later on.) Anna then seizes control of Gavin's affairs, rousing suspicion and hostility as she does everything according to how she and Gavin allegedly "discussed," including confiscating the baby's breath from the flower-arrangement atop his casket; Charlie torpedoes his relationship with live-in lover Frank (Nicholas Bishop); and Gavin's brother Simon (Nathaniel Dean) engages in a cathartic extramarital affair.
Anna becomes the object of venom from Gavin's mum, who feels supplanted in her life's role (the honest thing about their scenes together is the lack of histrionics--they mutually attempt to remain civil to each other while being less than deferential), and from Charlie, who also resents Anna's proprietary behaviour. Yet Anna, Charlie, and the rest receive equal empathy from the filmmakers, whom it would appear are incapable of playing favourites--a commendable trait, even if it neutralizes the picture's visuals until shots lack a point of interest. Still, Monk and first-time director Tony Ayres pull off a neat trick in incorporating elements of dark or just plain comic wit without letting the air out of the picture: A naked man using a mewling cat to hide his privates would sound atonal, but it's another thoroughly sincere ministration in a carousel of humanity. Originally published: August 22, 2003.