You feel bad disparaging a film such as Matching Jack (2010), the new drama by award winning director Nadia Tass, and starring such an impressive cast of luminaries as James Nesbitt, Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jacinda Barrett. However, being honest, it really is one of the most dispiriting films you’ll have likely seen for some time.
Jack (newcomer Tom Russell in only his third major film role) is diagnosed with childhood leukaemia and sent to stay in the cancer ward of the local children’s hospital. Meanwhile his mother Marissa (Barrett) discovers her husband David (Roxburgh) is having an affair and intends to leave her and Jack to live with his new girlfriend. Understandably distraught by her husbands deceit, Marissa decides some good may still come from his philandering. It emerges David has had numerous affairs, and Marissa is convinced he might have fathered other illegitimate children. If she can find any it’s possible they might have a bone marrow match which could potentially save Jack’s life.
Meanwhile Jack has befriended Finn (Smit-McPhee) with whom he shares his hospital room. Finn’s mother has died, and his father Connor (Nesbitt) is struggling to hold himself together as he deals with his son’s illness compounded by the loss of his wife. Marissa and Connor inevitably meet, forging a deep friendship as they help each other deal with their mutual difficulties.
Perhaps I missed the point, however I failed to connect with the characters and their seemingly insurmountable problems in this ‘human drama’. Each situation on its own, the death of Connor’s wife, David’s cheating, or the children’s battles with leukaemia, would provide enough heartache to fill a lifetime or a ninety minute feature. However putting them all together, even though they admittedly interconnect well, makes rather depressing viewing.
Matching Jack is beautifully shot, particularly the scene towards the end where Connor is adrift in a boat in the middle of a lake – a metaphor perhaps for his own life. Russell and Smit-McPhee also give outstanding performances with a rare maturity seldom seen in such young actors, especially when dealing with a subject as sensitive as leukaemia. The real question the viewer is left with however, is whether it’s really a suitable basis for entertainment?