The Jammed (Dee McLachlan, 2007, Australia)
Rating TBA Running time 89 minutes
Review by Bernard Hemingway
Synopsis: When insurance agent, Ashley Hudson (Veronica Sywak), goes to the airport to collect someone as a favour for a friend she finds herself reluctantly led into the world of sex trafficking.
The Jammed is a hard-hitting action drama with a compassionate heart. Written and directed by Dee McLachlan, a South African-born director making her first feature in Australia, it is a worthy addition to the catalogue of “social issue” films, works which address real life injustices via the format of cinematic fiction (the opening titles tell us that the story was inspired by court transcripts and actual events). Made by women, including, besides McLachlan, who also co-produced with Sally Ayre-Smith and co-edited with Anne Carter, Andrea Buck (who writes for this website) as executive producer, it is all the stronger for that fact as this brings to its subject matter, the brutal exploitation of women by men for commercial gain, the values of commitment, credibility and empathy in equal measure.
The script, with its well-developed array of characters, gives the film its solid foundation. Here the device of making the main character an ordinary young woman with a certain amount of emotional baggage is particularly effective as, in its contrast to the young women she tries to help, it both grounds the story in the everyday and brings home the message of injustice which is at the heart of the film. Also effective is the film’s narrative structure which in demanding the audience’s close attention to track events keeps our attention focused on the collision of worlds as officialdom, the workaday and the underworld interpenetrate.
Veronica Sywak is a strong presence at the epicentre of the story, playing the part with the kind of level-headed tenacity that actresses like Toni Collette and Cate Blanchett have made so typical of their screen personae. No doubt credit here also goes to McLachlan who judiciously keeps the film well clear of the strident or crusading. In this respect, the film’s score by the director’s brother, Grant McLachlan, has an important role, the simple and subdued music underlying the broader sense of human tragedy underpinning the specifics of this tale. Impressively shot by Peter Falk, Melbourne, particularly at night, has rarely looked better. Indeed it might be argued that a grittier visual style would have been more appropriate to the subject matter but the upside to this is that the film has more appeal as a cinematic experience. The Jammed is not without it flaws, notably in the casting of Emma Lung and a somewhat provocative but under-developed sub-story involving the laundering of dirty money in the galleries of high art, but overall it is an impressively well-made film that commendably throws light into a dark corner of our society