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.

Dark in tone and serious in nature, Ten Empty is a beautifully written, powerfully performed drama about Australia’s suburban heartland.

In Australian cinema, this country’s suburban heartland is often depicted as a goofy, daggy place, usually by filmmakers who have most likely grown up amongst the hip cafes and art scenes of our inner city cultural hubs. Ten Empty, however, brutally turns the suburban depictions of films like Holy Smoke and The Castle on their soft, fizzy heads. In this dark, seething little drama – which comes courtesy of debut screenwriter/director Anthony Hayes and co-writer/actor Brendan Cowell, two of this country’s most dynamic young talents – the Australian suburbs are home to the kind of bleak, all encompassing human crises that wouldn’t be out of place in the works of Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller.

Elliott Christie (Daniel Frederiksen) is a taciturn, slightly up-himself mover-and-shaker who returns to his family home in the Adelaide suburbs to be named godfather of his new half-brother. The whole situation, however, sits on an emotional knife edge: Elliott’s mentally unstable mother has died, leaving his boozy, blustery father Ross (Geoff Morrell) to hook up with her sensitive sister Diane (Lucy Bell), as younger brother Brett (Tom Budge) locks himself away in his room, refusing to talk. Looking on with a mix of compassion and curiosity are family friends Bobby Thompson (Jack Thompson), Shane Hackett (Brendan Cowell) and the effervescent Bernadette (Blazey Best).

Co-creators Hayes and Cowell – as actors, writers, producers and directors – have been previously and variously involved with a number of tough, beautifully crafted projects (The Boys, Love My Way, Look Both Ways, and the short film New Skin, amongst others), and bring all of that to bear on their impressive feature debut as behind-the-scenes talents. Their script zings with pungent dialogue and pointed observations about the Australian character.

Despite moments of raucous humour, the concerns of Ten Empty are largely and impossibly dark, as it wades into mental illness, alcoholism, betrayal and lacerating family dysfunction, possibly steering itself away from a large audience in the process. Yes, it might be unpalatable and often grimy in its depiction of local cultural custom, but the big-and-brave Ten Empty is a powerful and deeply moving drama that resounds with honesty and reverberates with emotional truth.

Filmink 4/5