Shot around Torquay, Victoria, Blinder is the story of a disgraced ex-footballer Tom Dunn (Oliver Ackland) who after a ten year stint away from home returns to face the scandal that tore his town apart. Embracing the life lessons his coach (Jack Thompson) once taught him he reignites an old flame and reunites the team, faces up to past mistakes and rekindles their love of football. After everything is done and dusted, it's not about giving your best; it's about doing your best.
This schmaltzy finisher to the synopsis is the type of high strung morality that pervades Blinder. This is a shame as the material is compelling and murky; essentially underage sex and rape is buried under a mediocre story witnessed thousands of times before. Tom is the protagonist but could really represent any been-there narrative driver, returning home after X years to set things right. It is a safe path that Blinder takes, avoiding the big issue until just near the end of the film, before tying the film up in a feel-good bow and sending audience members on their way.
Blinder begins with two definitions of the word; drunk beyond excess and more colloquially a damn fine game of Australia rules football (AFL). This is already indications of the identity crisis that cripples the film. Intriguingly the next scene is a hedonistic party and a one-take of a man walking through to the pool. This scene is not revisited or repeated until the end of the film but by this stage has lost all dramatic weight.
The majority of the film is unfortunately bogged down with Tom's actions set to the tune of a very forced soundtrack, like one really long music video. There is little drama and only hints of what has happened, which is not enough to justify the running length. There are awkward flashbacks but these avoid the scandal and instead celebrate Tom's life as a seasoned skilled footballer. Sadly this includes an embarrassing training montage and it is hard to take anything seriously.
In the end the film seems to suggest that the scandal was not entirely the footballers fault and their reputation was ruined by an underage girl. To even hint at this is a bizarre move, made even stranger when, 10 years on, Tom hooks up with said girl.
The girl is Sammy, played by Rose McIver, who admittedly does great work as the picture of enthusiasm and naivety. The rest of the supporting cast are one-dimensional and assigned one-note personalities and tropes; the boof-head, the Scottish/Irish guy (seriously Australia, stop casting these same characters!) and the jock(s). Legendary actor Jack Thompson provides almost no oomph as the inspiring coach.
Blinder is also about the love of the game, and as such there are quite a few matches played out. The film's executive producer and football personality Sam Kekovich comments the local games, unintentionally but hilariously providing exposition. The games themselves are shot poorly and feel weightless; the excitement is lacking and these scenes are missing crucial urgency.
Blinder could have been a razor sharp commentary about the persona of footballers and a celebration of the much-loved game. Instead it avoids all the meaty and interesting subjects, hiding them under dramaless scenes of characters either yelling at each other or reconnecting with each other. The fact the big scandal is relegated to a two-minute montage was shocking to behold; if this given a feature-length focus I would have much more praise for Blinder, but as it stands I'd rather go on a blinder than watch Blinder again.
Blinder is now playing in cinemas across Australia.