Don’t Tell is the first feature from TV-intensive director Tori Garrett and sometimes feels a little cautious and earnest, but how could it not be, given the subject matter?
Drawn from lawyer Stephen Roche’s book, this strongly-cast factual drama is based upon the story of 22 year old Lyndal (memorably played by Adelaide’s Sara West), who broke codes of silence and denial surrounding her sexual abuse at Toowoomba Preparatory School in 1990, and led a major shift in the Australian legal system, giving many other survivors a voice.
Weary family man Roche (Aden Young) is traumatised by a tragedy during a trial in 2001 and therefore uneasy to take on similar cases involving abuse victims. While this all makes for a slightly awkward opening sequence, Young’s committed performance just about makes it work anyway. Roche is then approached by psychiatrist Joy Connolly (Rachel Griffiths in a few scenes) and asked to take on Lyndal’s case, and when he meets her, he realises that she’s tough enough to make it through a trial, even though the chance of the Anglican Church losing isn’t good.
Teaming with new associate Jodie Collins (Ashlee Lollback) and formidable barrister Bob Myers (Jack Thompson replacing Michael Caton), we watch as Roche and others provoke Lyndal to recall her abuse at the hands of Kevin Guy (Gyton Grantley) in 1990. Here she’s portrayed by Kiara Freeman in delicately-handled sequences. All the while, the representatives of the Church, including defense lawyer Jean Dalton (Jacqueline McKenzie) and grim Robert Brewster (Robert Taylor), are shown sitting stony-faced in dark rooms and plotting away, as if we needed further proof that they were the villains of the piece.
Although full of name Aussie talent (like Martin Sacks and Susie Porter as Lyndal’s parents), this is held together by Thompson, Young and the very impressive West, who plays Lyndal as a defiant young woman obviously suffering PTSD yet desperate to tell the truth, no matter what. It’s one of the year’s best performances in an Australian film, and it might be enough to allow director Garrett’s effort to be heard over all those damn American pics out there.
Rated M. Don’t Tell is in cinemas now