by Geoffrey Churchman

Successful homegrown comedy movies in NZ have not been particularly numerous. However, This Town starring David White, Alice May Connolly, Robyn Malcolm and Rima Te Wiata is sure to become one of them.  Being a black comedy, it is in tune with what many see as an underlying disposition in many NZ films.

Director and writer David White has created a tale with an obvious allusion to the David Bain murder case of 1994 where a whole family were killed except one son, an unharmed survivor who was charged with the murders.  The lead character Sean (David White) is a twenty-something odd-job man in a rural Hawkes Bay town named Thiston (filmed around Waipukurau) who may or may not have killed his whole family by shooting them inside their house, for which he was arrested, but the case was thrown out by a jury.  Being single he seeks and establishes, via a smartphone dating app, a relationship with a young twenty-something girl, Casey.  The time of year is a somewhat but not overly dry summer with long brown grass and simple light clothes are worn by most.

An ex-policewoman Pam (Robyn Malcolm) who was involved in the case is determined not to give up seeking evidence to determine whodunnit, helped by a reporter who wants to write a top-selling true crime book. Attitudes to Sean among the townsfolk are rather negative which is not too surprising when it seems to locals he must have done it, regardless of what the jury found.

Blokish themes, such a demolition derby (with pink cars!) and enough rifles to make a Texan jealous are balanced by Casey’s friends who wouldn’t be out of place in the Australian comedy movie Muriel’s Wedding from the 1990s.

Some of the cast, an array of rural Kiwi fellas and fellesses introduce themselves and brief aspects of their stories with voice-overs and followed by the series of skits that form a well crafted whole.

There is a range of visual amusement in the props such as cans of Killer Lager, posters with odd statements or questions and out of the ordinary equipment such as metal detectors (one find in a paddock is an oversize vehicle exhaust) and a very large chainsaw.

It’s nearly all good fun apart from the murder scene, now a patch of brown grass with a forlorn old fireplace, but that isn’t overly dwelt upon and the predominant mood is light-hearted

Nationwide release, originally scheduled before Lockdown, took place on 6 August.

This Town (91 minutes) is screening at the Shoreline in Waikanae.