The Force of Destiny
Robert (David Wenham) is a celebrated sculptor who lives and works by himself on a rambling property in the bush outside of Melbourne. His adult daughter Poppy (Hannah Fredericksen) visits from time to time, as does his nervy ex-wife Hannah (an excellent Jacqueline McKenzie). Both women seem keen to keep an eye on him, as if they suspect something’s wrong. A doctor’s visit confirms they’re right: Robert has advanced liver cancer and only months to live. The women hover round even more intensely, but Robert remains emotionally distant, trapped inside his own memories and fears until he connects by chance with a beautiful young Indian marine biologist, Maya (Shahana Goswami). She’s preparing for the death of her elderly uncle who lives on the other side of the world. Robert and Maya begin an end-of-life love affair amid these morbid concerns, but new hope flickers when he’s put on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
Force of Destiny is written and directed by the Dutch-born Paul Cox, one of Australia’s most prolific and internationally renowned auteurs, whose more than 40 films include Man of Flowers (1983), My First Wife (1984) and Innocence (2000). Often deeply personal, reflecting his own experiences or those of his friends, Cox’s films are also known for the way they are made – with cobbled together finance and an intimate collective of familiar actors and creative personnel. In all these respects, Force of Destiny is a typical Cox film. The story is inspired by the now-75-year-old’s own experience of being a liver transplant recipient. Introducing the film at the recent opening night of the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival, where it was the featured screening, a very frail Cox gave a moving speech dedicating what may be his last film to his anonymous organ donor. (The souvenir handout was a handsome mix of production stills, film credits and cancer/organ transplant information produced in association with the Cancer Council.)