To Have and to Hold

Starring: Tchéky Karyo, Rachel Griffiths and Steve Jacobs
Tartan Video
RRP: £19.99
TVD3733 / TVD3762 (HMV Exclusive)
Certificate: 18
Available 23 April 2007

Two years following the death of his wife in New Guinea, Jack meets a new love, Kate, an author in Melbourne. After a whirlwind romance, Kate decides to return with Jack, but New Guinea is not the idyllic paradise that she was hoping for. Tormented by the memory of Rose, his dead wife, Jack's behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic. As Jack's mental state deteriorates Kate realises that her life is at risk...

To Have and to Hold (1996) was directed by John Hillcoat and adapted by Gene Conkie, from his original novel. A well known Australian director, Hillcoat had started his career as a video director before directing the brutal, but well received Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (1988) also with Conkie and Nick Cave. His most recent work was The Proposition (2005), written by Nick Cave and staring Richard Wilson, Guy Pearce and Ray Winston.

Thematically this is quite old ground. The idea of a white man being corrupted by a return to nature was better explored in Peter Weir's Mosquito Coast (1986); the similarity doesn't end there as both films make it plain that it isn't the exposure to the jungle that drives the characters insane, they were quite insane to begin with.

What should have been a tense psychological drama, a journey into madness, like Apocalypse Now (1979), ends up as quite a lacklustre affair. Tcheky Karyo, who plays Jack, does what he can with the role, but the script is missing enough back-story for us to really care less about what happens to the character and when we get to the final reveal of what really happened to Rose... her fate had been so well sign posted that it comes as a massive disappointment to realise that you had worked the whole plot out in the first twenty minutes.

I have no idea what happened to Rachel Griffiths, better known for her role on Six Feet Under, who had acted so well in Muriel's Wedding (1994). The poor dear seems to have misplaced her emotional range somewhere, as her performance seems to hardly rise above a monotone.

The supporting cast characters are drawn from a box marked stereotypes, so we have the misogynistic Australians; actually most of the males in the film are portrayed as misogynistic to one degree of another. Kate can't even get rescued by the local police, even when she tells them that she is being held against her will, at gun point.

The film is presented with only a stereo audio track and the slightly soft print makes the film look older that it actually is. There are no extras to speak of except the original theatrical trailer.

Ultimately, the film has too many weaknesses in script and acting to make it a must buy.

Charles Packer

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