A low-rent Australian drama in which very little happens, How Do You Know Chris? is strictly film festival fare.
It is the year 2000. Nineteen year-old (nearly 20) Emi Mustafi (Tatiana Quaresma) meets Chris (Luke Cook), 28, in a laundromat. Even though they’ve just met, the older copywriter invites the commerce student to a small get-together that night in his inner-city Melbourne apartment. She turns up, but he’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, bartender Ray (Lee Mason) is serving drinks and finger food and a collection of people who know or have known Chris. The first couple Emi comes across are larger-than-life Dubliner Dot (Lynn Gilmartin), and her taciturn boyfriend Mike (Travis McMahon), who doesn’t know Chris, but is there to catch up with Frankie. Huh? Who’s Frankie?
Then she encounters Chris’ former classmate Blucker (Dan Haberfield), now confined to a wheelchair, who hasn’t seen Chris since school. Blucker doesn’t get along with another loyal school friend of Chris, Justin (Jacob Machin), who is in attendance with his partner, Claire (Ellen Grimshaw), who Blucker always fancied. Chris’ boss Shane (Stephen Carracher) has turned up dressed as Sherlock Holmes. Later, Chris’ mum Amanda (Susan Stevenson) puts in an appearance. His father and brother have both died. And there’s a goth girl, Christal (Rachel Kim Cross), who used to be Chris’ partner. Gradually we learn more about each of them and their relationship to Chris, before he eventually turns up to say a few words to the group … or what is left of it.
Acting aside, what is immediately obvious is the lacklustre scripting by Zachary Perez and direction from Ashley Harris. In all respects, How Do You Know Chris? seems thin. I needed the film to build an affinity with the character. That would have required far greater nuance. As it is, the characters are more caricatures than real people.
The idea behind the mystery is sound, but I found the execution lacking. As the credits rolled, a feeling of having been underwhelmed enveloped me.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.