Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, we got to see Aussie comedy The Merger. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!

Mark Grentell’s Australian film The Merger takes us into the world of Bodgy Creek, a bush town filled with interesting characters. It combines comedy and drama as well as a fair dose of sporting glory, and with performances that complement each other like puzzle pieces fitting together, the cast have given their all in creating an ensemble piece which is at once hilarious and heart-warming.

Shot on location in Wagga and surrounds, the story is narrated by young boy and documentary enthusiast Neil (Rafferty Grierson), who together with his mother Angie (Kate Mulvany) attempts to rally the once great footy player Troy Carrington (Damian Callinan) to take up the mantle of club coach for The Roosters – a new team formed through a merger of two struggling local footy clubs. Despite the stubborn feelings of Angie’s father-in-law and stalwart club custodian Bull Barlow (John Howard) Troy is chosen to lead the new team. The townsfolk will need convincing, especially since they have ostracised him from the community for his “greenie” campaigning which resulted in the closure of the town’s lumber mill, a sin for which he is dubbed “town killer”. He presents the citizens of Bodgy Creek with a plan that involves integrating the town’s recently settled refugees into the team, while also using their specialist skills to help rebuild the clubhouse. This is rocky territory to be crossed, because it means getting to know the refugees, called “reffos” by the more conservative minded in Bodgy Creek, and accepting them into the club. In short, the Anglo Aussies must undergo a merger with the refugees in order to succeed.

Damian Callinan’s script sings with verbal gags, much of the humour coming from Australianisms and slang. Some of the best of these moments come from young Grierson, who expertly handles making Neil’s deadpan and almost innocent lines both relatable and hilarious. There is also strong humour to be found in the exchange of Australian and international culture – for the refugees, an introduction to sporting equipment, locker room chat and boozy celebrations, and for the Aussie characters, an introduction to multicultural cuisine, traditional dance, and eye-opening tales of hardship beyond anything they have heard of before.

While Callinan’s script is filled with moments of great comedy, it also creates moments of vulnerability and truth as we are shown deeper sides of the characters, particularly the stories of the refugees – supporting cast members who brought real life stories of escaping war-torn countries to the film. Fayssal Bazzi gives a standout performance as Syrian refugee Sayyid, who reveres the game of AFL after becoming an avid reader of footy memoirs while waiting for processing on Nauru. Sayyid is presented as a noble and friendly family man, and his story also delves into the harsher reality of the refugee situation. Similarly, there is both humour and tenderness to be found in the relationship between Troy and Angie, spurred on by Neil’s similarly growing fondness for Troy. Kate Mulvany is charming as Angie, and even gets to flex her acting prowess in a scene of Shakespearean outburst which alludes to her award-winning portrayal of Richard III in last year’s Bell Shakespeare production.

Through the frame of a sporting tale, the film critiques the small-town mindset towards immigrants and refugees, challenging racism and encouraging Australia to embrace multiculturalism and inclusion for the good of all involved. Beyond the laughter the film evokes, it is ultimately a hopeful vision of what could be achieved in Australian communities.

The Merger is now showing in selected cinemas.

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