Latest posts by Erin Miskell (see all)
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Admittedly, the phrase “Australian wine country” doesn’t seem like it would strike terror into the heart. However, writer/director Megan Riakos is here to change all of that with her stylish effort Crushed, which comes out on Video On Demand on November 1, 2016. One part drama, one part murder mystery, Crushed is a lush, engaging thriller.
Our story starts off with Ellia (Sarah Bishop of the viral hit Activewear), a woman trying to open her own wine bar that gets called home to the family vineyard. Sarah’s father has died in an accident, which brings her back to the strained family she’s been trying to escape, including quiet sister Harriet (Millie Spencer-Brown), younger brother Zac (Remy Brand), and cold, distant mother Sophie (Roxanne Wilson). When the police declare the death a homicide, suspicion is cast on Sophie; however, as Ellia digs to uncover the truth, she finds a deeper mystery in everything from police officer Lucas (Robert Preston) to vineyard worker David (Les Hill). Can Ellia unravel the truth before the killer strikes again? And how far does the rabbit hole go?
Watch the trailer below:
Crushed benefits from multiple aspects combined perfectly, much like a damn near perfect wine. Riakos delivers a tight script with characters that are close to actual people, which is a lot harder to accomplish than it sounds. I’ll be upfront: you may not entirely like Bishop’s Ellia, who is played perfectly as a woman with a troubled past that’s trying to distance herself from a source of deep pain. Not everyone in real life is Reese Witherspoon though (thank god), and Bishop does a great job representing what Riakos has written: someone who has lived, someone who may not necessarily win a popularity contest. She’s a lot closer to people you know as opposed to a flat trope, which is by leaps and bounds far more easy to write and act. Adding to this performance is Riakos’s directing style. Riakos pairs simple cut-away shots with a distanced perspective to give the audience the feeling that we’re both in on the action and removed from it. It’s the perfect metaphor for being stuck with family members you don’t want to be around: you’re there, but you’re observing everything rather than getting directly involved with the latest debate over wallpaper. It’s quite clever, like a sharp note paired with a muted bottom flavor note. Again, another wine analogy, but it’s merited because it knows how to bring together its pieces without making them overpowering. That’s half the art of winemaking, and it comes out beautifully in this film.
Even better is the layering of a string-based score, which fits perfectly with the dusty, dry vineyard world we’re immersed in. There is something great about a well-done score, and this one is both appropriate and articulate: the deep, low hums of a cello work well against the country skyline, which helps foster a mood of pensive reflection. It works very well when you witness the hard work of the vineyard family versus the elegant bottles and rich fountains of wine in the kitchen. It gives a greater appreciation of the process, and allows us to experience both dirty work and the polished end result.
Prior to this launch, it’s played the Montreal World Film Festival, the Miami National Film Festival, and the Napa Valley Film Festival.