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Review: A Bend In The Road

Male boredom assumes many forms. The simple act of throwing rocks at a tin can. Boy racing a white Toyota Supra up and down the Banks Peninsula. Homophobic abuse. This is the life facing Josh and Dave; awkward angular teens with milk bottle legs. They could be contestants into an Andy Murray look-alike contest.

Josh waits for his own personal Jesus – Brett. He’s eager, edgy, jaw clenched tight like a portable mantrap getting ready for a first date. “He’ll be here soon,” he swoons, “it’ll be mint.” Dave has perspective, “Brett’s a dick.” Josh can’t see it but boy can we. Brett is the personification of a dick. The baseball hat, grey hoodie and jungle music, all the trappings of a fallen Empire confirm it.

This is an unrequited love affair, Mad Max style. The road is straight and phallic, the helicopter shot Josh’s erection for all things bloke, for all things Brett. His hero couldn’t give a monkey’s uncle as he tosses his teenage admirer’s hat from the car. Josh is crushed but wants more. The interior is heavy with his gaze, breathing in every cock-sure smirk and cruel barb, mesmerised by the bullshit lies of Brett’s conquests.

Every swig of beer or drag of a cigarette is committed to Josh’s memory. This is the tiepin scene from Gangster No1 but Brett is sorely lacking the compassion or charm of Freddie Mays. Josh is his flunkey to be moulded into a van weasel, hanging on his every sorry word. What is so lacking in Josh to make him idolise Brett? Has he lost his dad or something far simpler? Does he just prefer riding around in a fast car to having a backy on Dave’s pushbike?

Brett spots a rival Tony by the side of the road. Tony’s car is all muscle and even his beer can is larger. Brett pulls over and leaves Josh to inhale on an unlit fag eyes closed, head back in homoerotic bliss. What dreams does he taste through that filter? “Joshyboy,” calls his hero. The moment is lost. The reality is a super-charged engine. The reality is extreme violence.

A Bend In The Road confirms New Zealand director Rollo Wenlock as a filmmaker to watch closely. His shorts have an enigmatic quality that catches the audience unaware, a fluid camera that smells nuance in his impressive actors rather than simply film their performances. As ever he hints at something sinister around the corner, something just beyond the frame – in the case of Josh, a life changing experience by A Bend In The Road.