We had the chance to see Matt Cerwen’s Australian independent feature film CIRCLE OF LIES. This teen/young adult drama centers on an unfolding scandal at the fictional Short Beach High. The director chose to shoot on location in and around Sydney and the gorgeous coastal settings make for a visual treat.
Denise (Hilary Caitens) has returned to school, after an unexplained break, to find herself the victim of vicious rumours. Bitchy Kirsty, (Anna Lawrence), leads a pack of nasty girls in making Denise’s life hell with relentless bullying and gossip. Kirsty’s boyfriend, Aiden (Ryan Harrison), once dated Denise and is now torn by conflicting feelings for the girls and the cruel accusations that are being generated by the school rumour mill.
Relationships in this film aren’t as strongly developed as they could be, resulting in it being a little difficult for an audience to really engage and empathise with the central characters. That said, this is an accurate depiction of bullying and victimisation in the age of instant communication and social networking. There are some nice sequences depicting the disturbing virality of modern gossip and just how quickly and absolutely it can destroy reputations. Bullying is a theme that needs to be discussed and confronted, and Circle of Lies effectively demonstrates the ugly pack mentality and how isolating and damaging gossip and rumour can be.
Weak performances from some of the supporting cast are balanced by strong leads. Hilary Caitens brings a believable vulnerability to her role as the harassed Denise, and Anna Lawrence makes for a ferocious alpha female as Kirsty. Genevieve Morris, most noted for her comedic work, is great in this serious role as the school principal.
Some graphic sex scenes ensure that this film lands squarely in the MA15+ category. At the end of the film, the filmmakers have also included a link to the mental health organisation, Reach Out. In a recent interview, producer Steve Jaggi discusses Reach Out’s contribution to the film’s authenticity.
The film is being distributed in selected cinemas across Australia – go to www.circleofliesmovie.com to check dates and locations.