Harvey has just found out his best friend has passed away, so to cope with his loss he does what he does best, and runs away. Here is Screen Critix Review of writer/director Aaron Carroll’s Australian comedy short Harvey.
Australian comedy has a long punched above its weight across the globe, relishing in its underdog status and basking in the success of cult classics and working-class ‘ocker’ humour. By telling stories that consist of brash and endearing tales of the little guy succeeding, the Australian sense of humour, often consisting of self-deprecation, cheek and charm, has provided us with some memorable characters, produced a number of box office hits and created quite a few Hollywood superstars. Aaron Carroll’s Harvey provides us with a similar blueprint and while it may not reach the heights of previous incarnations, it still remains a very enjoyable piece of work.
With an uplifting theme tune, some lovely drone shots of the suburbs as well as a cul-de-sac, Harvey opens like an episode of Neighbours or Home And Away. This comparison is swiftly broken by the bellowing voice of Peter D Flaherty’s slobbish Harvey – a couch potato who has lost the TV remote control. Slouching on his black, leather, lazy boy chair, Harvey is the Australian equivalent to Britain’s Jim Royal. Like it’s more famous Aussie stable mates Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding, the 12 minute Harvey is another antipodean film that walks a careful line between satire and misery, comedy and tragedy.
Harvey is merciless in its portrayal working class stereotype yet has a huge affection for its misfit characters. When Harvey has a moment in which he almost loses his life, his wife only a few yards away is too busy listening to the music in her earphones to notice. Quickly rectifying the potentially deadly situation Harvey’s ‘ocker’ pride stops him from saying anything and he carries on laughing at the TV as if nothing happened. It’s a simple joke that tells us all we need to know about these two characters.
There are some lovely scenes between Flaherty’s Harvey and his put-upon wife Janine, lovingly played by Kym Valentine. Cinematographer Cameron Zayec films them in a wide two-shot and together they create a very believable couple.
The film changes gears at the midpoint when Harvey receives some life-changing news then, after a minute or so of soul searching, Harvey decides to simply run. He sprints, or shall we say waddles, at speed through the neighbourhood where he passes numerous houses, a couple of his neighbours, and a few cars. The tracking shots, editing, and inspiring score all combine to create what feels like a genuine life-affirming race for Harvey’s very soul. The camera follows Harvey from behind, in front, at the side, and stays with him taking in every step he makes. This gives the film a real sense of urgency and the seriousness with which Harvey’s journey is treated and helps to make the occasional patchy comedy much funnier. The film ends with a punchline that it has worked very hard for and definitely earns the laugh it generates.
The script, written by Carroll, is quite witty with nice little spins on Australian cliché’s. Flaherty uses his physicality and gurning to flesh out Harvey’s dialogue to great effect, while Valentine uses more understatement and cheerful optimism with her line delivery. Again, this all helps to emphasise their different characteristics. The aforementioned Cameron Zayec’s cinematography gives us some beautiful images of Harvey and Janine’s home, as well as the neighbourhood with bright natural colours that seemingly jump out at you. While Carroll’s editing gives us a clear and linear flow of uninterrupted action.
Harvey is a fun film that manages to create both laughter and pathos in equal measure. It comes highly recommended.