Unsound is a heart-swelling Aussie film with Auslan and the deaf community at its heart

Unsound (MA, 82 minutes)

Three stars

Two very strong performances by a pair of young stars-on-the-rise propel a meaningful story in this small but powerful Aussie film.

When the international tour of famous singer Moniqua (Christine Anu) arrives in Sydney, her guitarist Noah (Reece Noi) ditches the tour to instead spend time with his mother Angela (Paula Duncan).

Reece Noi as Noah and Yiana Pandelis as Finn in Unsound. Picture: Wise Goat Productions

Reece Noi as Noah and Yiana Pandelis as Finn in Unsound. Picture: Wise Goat Productions

The pair have some issues to deal with - Angela left Noah in the UK many years earlier after Noah's father walked out on them both.

It isn't helping that Noah has found his dad's old guitar and is carrying it around with him everywhere.

On his wanderings around Sydney's streets, he sees a building lit up like a nightclub and walks in to meets Finn (Yiana Pandelis).

The building is home to a deaf community centre that Finn and his friends occasionally turn into a dance club, which brings them into trouble with their local community and police.

It takes a lot of bass amped up very loud for some of their hearing-impaired members to feel and dance along to the beat.

For Finn and Noah there is an immediate connection and Noah begins coming to the centre during its daytime sessions, learning sign language to better talk with Finn, who only speaks this way.

Initially dubious of Noah's intentions are Finn's friends and his dad Lewis (Todd McKeney), who is worried that Noah is taking on too much with a boyfriend on top of his transition.

There is so much to love about Ian Watson's charming little film, but most of all it is the genuine chemistry between leads Reece Noi and Yiana Pandelis.

Audiences may remember Noi from a few seasons of Game of Thrones.

He looks so young, but has already had a long career including a big run on Grange Hill in the early 2000s.

Yiana Pandelis is a revelation as Finn.

Finn has a few emotional attachments they have to let go of as their transition journey unfolds and Pandelis delicately plays these scenes.

Great screen chemistry doesn't come along that often but these two have it.

I kinda felt like The Grinch at the end of the Dr Seuss book - my heart grew three sizes while I watched this adorable courtship play out on screen.

Ally Burnham's screenplay does sometimes get bogged down in its issues-based narrative, but it is a genuine thrill to see much of the film's dialogue played in Auslan - Australian Sign Language.

It can't be often that our hearing-impaired family and friends get to see their stories played out on screen.

Great too to see Paula Duncan on the big screen again as Noah's mother, and I noticed her daughter Jessica Orcsik playing a police constable, making this a family affair.

Christine Anu seems to be ageing in reverse.

She has never looked more beautiful than as the songstress Moniqua who is, I have to say, quite patient with her young and unreliable accompanist.

Anu closes the film with a performance at the Deaf Centre that is both musically lovely and leaves the film on a nicely paced level of energy.

Also among the cast is Terry Serio whose Running on Empty I adored in the mid-80s and whose band provide some of the film's soundtrack.

The MA rating for this film is unfortunate and I think unnecessary.

There is a running gag through the film where Reece's Noi's character, while learning Auslan, makes a repeated mistake and accidentally signs a pretty strong swear word instead of the sign for "love".

It gets the biggest laugh of the film, it's a great gag, but I don't know why that puts it in the same viewing category as films like Silence of the Lambs, Insidious or The Ring.

This is a well-intentioned, well-made and heart-warming little local film that deserves your support at the box office.

It won't have anywhere near the marketing budget of its competitors and so will depend on the positive word-of-mouth to spread the word, or sign, of its value.

This story A heart-swelling Aussie flick first appeared on The Canberra Times.