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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The Rooster (MA) - 101 minutes

Set in a small town in rural Victoria, The Rooster marks a highly imaginative and impactful feature film debut for writer and director Mark Leonard Winter.


The double Helpmann Award winning actor, who featured in Elvis, Balibo and The Dressmaker, drew on personal experience to create something mighty special.


The film deals with masculinity, isolation and crisis, and concerns an introverted policeman and a hermit.


A cop, like his father, Dan (Phoenix Raei) lives alone with his chickens and beloved rooster, patrolling a one-man satellite police station.


He is haunted by his past.


When the body of his childhood friend Steve (Rhys Mitchell) is found buried in a shallow grave, Dan goes bush.


He turns to booze to try to satiate the guilt and heartache he feels.

He chances upon a volatile hermit (Hugo Weaving) who lives off the grid close to where his mate died.


Upon discovering that this recluse, Mit, was the last man to see Steve alive, Dan seeks answers.


An unlikely bond develops between the pair. It is only when Dan – whose passion is literature and poetry – lets down his guard that progress is made.


It is only then that Dan can finally see a way forward … a way through the dark cloud that hangs over his life.


The Rooster is an extraordinary film, a substantive and quality piece of work, in which, with a great deal of care and attention to detail, all the pieces fit together.


It tackles mental health from the inside out. What is it like to be inside the mindset of the policeman and hermit? How does one simply cope and get through each day?

There are many scenes in this beautifully shot and realised film – the cinematography is by Craig Barden – when words are all but superfluous.

Principal photography took place in the Hepburn Shire, where Mark Winter and his wife, one of the film’s producers, Geraldine Hakewill, live.


Winter is, in fact, the master of the unspoken. He ensures that sounds and silences speak volumes. The Rooster is given time to breathe.


The natural bird noises found in the country and forest are intermingled with classical, jazz and religious music. Composer Stefan Gregory has played into Winter’s vision magnificently.


And then there are the superb performances of Raei and Weaving, who fully realise the depths of the anguish of the two central characters.


Both are withdrawn in their own way. There is regret, failure and shame.


Raei’s portrayal of Dan is sensitive and caring, while as Mit Weaving is often demonstrative and threatening.

But these seemingly polar opposite characterisations can’t hide their respective characters’ pain.


It is the juxtaposition that helps make this picture as strong as it is.


Winter et al are to be commended for their fortitude in crafting a left of centre production that is undeniably triumphant.


Rated MA, The Rooster scores an 8½ out of 10.


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