“A Month of Sundays” is a well wrought gem

A Month of Sundays is a film about real estate agents. Not the most promising, start you might think. But wait.

It stars Anthony LaPaglia and John Clarke.

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And it has a terrific screenplay written by  director Matthew Saville that is perfect for the deadpan wit of Phillip Lang (played by Clarke) and the mordant humour of Frank Mollard (played by LaPaglia).

Can we ever get enough of John Clarke? How is that he always plays John Clarke and it’s always so funny.

Frank is a man who no longer cares about life. He is completely disinterested in his job, in his recent divorce and in his son. He thinks his son should go to a school for kids who can’t play sport.

His detachment from this life is depicted, humorously and poignantly, by his habit of assessing every house he sees in terms of advertisements shot through with the hyperbole and half lies of the real estate pages.

The action of the film begins with a phone call that Frank receives. He thinks it comes from his mother.  It’s slightly improbable. We learn later that Frank’s mother is dead.

The call comes from  a retired librarian called Sarah ( Julia Blake). In his developing relationship with Sarah, Frank begins down the path toward rejoining the human race.

This process begins when Sarah asks him to drive her to the houses that she grew up in. As they visit them, she recalls the details from her childhood and the importance of the memories. For her, unlike Frank, houses are more than real estate.

In an earlier scene, Frank has met her in a hospital where she says she has been visiting a friend. But with the visits to the old homes, Frank realises that Sarah is dying.

Philip has taken Sarah to visit his father in a nursing home and after the visit Sarah tells Frank and Philip a story that Philip has never heard. His father was a member of an army unit that was cut off behind Japanese lines during the Second World War. The officer who led them into safety after a three-month trek through the jungles was called Philip.

Frank’s son is called Frank Jr. It is one of the beautiful and subtle touches that permeate this film.

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 Sarah talks to Philip’s father in an old folks home.

A Month of Sundays a gentle and at times humorous film but it visits some very serious issues: the nature of loss, redemption (well, second chances) and coming to terms with death.  But death, while sad, is important to the real estate industry. No more so than with the imminent departure of Philip’s father and the need to put the old family home on the market.

 Philip is keen for Frank to write the copy for the sale of the house. Frank is less than enthusiastic. He’s becoming weary of deceased estates.

Later in the film, after Sarah dies, her son asks Frank to help him sell his mother’s house. One of the subplots running through the film is of a young couple, Ian and Julie, who are constantly being outbid at auctions. They blame Frank.

With Sarah’s house on the market, Frank approaches Ian and Julie. The owner wants a quick settlement he tells them and the house is within your price range.  They’re sceptical. Frank has misled them before and the house is clearly not within their price range.  Frank tells them to come into the office next day and complete the paperwork.

 There is a lovely shot of the happy couple standing outside the house taking photographs. “Just across the road from extensive park lands” says Frank in the voice-over.

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