Having flown the coup for Sydney following his troubled mother's death, Elliot returns to Adelaide where his father is now married to his mother's sister and younger brother, Brett, has become a silent recluse. Father and son tensions make for an interesting weekend.

3
The directing is spot-on and the performances outstanding, it\'s just a shame about the genre.

The press notes for Ten Empty claim it 'delves behind the barbeques, beer and brick veneer of suburban Australia. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. What I object to is that local filmmakers – few of whom live in these 'burbs – always seem to come up with the same portrait. An Aussie majority that is white, loud, aggressive, emotionally stunted and tragic people who, beneath the dirt, blood and beer stains, have hearts of gold.

This time around our tour guide to hell is Elliot Christie, a late twentysomething who fled the family home a decade ago. The reason? Mum was losing her mind and dad had eyes for his wife’s sister.

Returning home for the weekend, Elliot finds things are even worse than when he left. His little brother, Brett, is in a suicidal depression and his dad’s life with the new wife is falling to pieces. This time, though, Elliott can’t run.

Purely on its own merits, Ten Empty is accomplished filmmaking. The performances are outstanding, it’s well directed and the cinematography and dialogue feel natural. Wisely, director Anthony Hayes and his co-writer and supporting actor Brendan Cowell pull back from some of the more morbid ideas they toyed with.

This sort of kitchen-sink drama – which Mike Leigh, for instance, does so well – works best when it’s tempered with humour, lightness and moments of absurdity. Such variation gives us a breather and intensifies the drama by providing contrast.

As skillfully put together as it is, Ten Empty is unrelievedly grim for the most part. I wish it – and the genre within which it exists – weren’t so one note in their depiction of the Australian majority.

This is a tough one to recommend as entertainment. But for its performances and intensity, Ten Empty rates three stars.