The original VHS release went with “When Going Back is the Best Way Forward” and a couple of quotes on the front cover:

“The best acted, best written, best directed and most satisfying movie in a long time.” Ivan Hutchinson (Mr Movies)

“One of the finest films made this decade.” Scott Murray (Cinema Papers).

The rear of the slick led with “Return Home is a movie about decency, optimism, humanity , and life” and another quote:

“Fascinating stuff. Rings true in every detail.” David Stratton, Variety.

There was also a short synopsis:

Ten years after leaving, Noel McKenzie makes the trip home that will ultimately change his life.

Return Home is set in a small seaside suburb, its story deals with the relationship between two brothers, Steve, who runs a garage and Noel, a successful businessman who is trying to rejuvenate his life after an unsuccessful marriage. Each envies the other for different aspects of their lives, but neither seems prepared to change.

Umbrella prepared several slicks for its DVD release - one adopted the VHS pitch, while also noting David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz each handed out five stars for the film (dropped from a later cover), along with an olive wreath, “Winner AFI Awards 1990 Best Director”.

On the rear, the synopsis read:

Australian cinematographer Ry Argall made his directorial debut with this beguiling story about a man who makes a long overdue visit to his hometown.

Noel (Dennis Coard) a successful insurance broker in Melbourne, returns home to seaside Adelaide to stay with his brother Steve (Frankie J Holden), a mechanic running the family garage.

As they struggle to reconcile the “She’ll be right” attitude with the “She won’t be right” economic climate, Noel strikes up a close friendship with Steve’s prize mechanic Gary (Ben Mendelsohn in a standout performance), an awkward teenager having problems at work and with girlfriend Wendy (Rachel Rains). Torn between the charm of his home town and the allure of the big city, Noel must now decide where his future lies.

Featuring a great soundtrack by Joe Camilleri (The Black Sorrows), The Celibate Rifles, TISM, Young Modern and Bored. (At the time the film’s credits were prepared, the band TISM was still being listed as This Is Serious Mum).

(For a more detailed synopsis, with cast details, sample dialogue and spoilers, see the bottom of this site’s ‘about the movie’ section).


Writers:
Exec producers:
DOPs:
Production Designers:
Art Directors:
Composers:
Editors:

Production Details

Production company: Musical Films presents; tail credit copyrights to Ray Argall, Musical Films Pty Ltd, Melbourne Australia; produced with the financial assistance of the Australian Film Commission and Film Victoria. (The film was fully funded by FV and the AFC).

Budget: $348,000, with the Film Victoria contribution $105,000 (Filmnews, November 1990); David Stratton in The Avocado Plantation rounded the budget to $350,000. (The film started with a budget of $285,000 and Cinema Papers’ production surveys later listed it as rising to $347,000). The AFC paid for the cost of the blow-up, which was an added expense outside the original production budget. At the time, this would have been c. $40-50,000.

Locations: end title “filmed on location in Adelaide, South Australia.” The featured petrol station was still working as of 2016, though in much changed form, on the corner of Military and Henley Beach Rd, Henley Beach South. There are many other familiar Adelaide landmarks true to period, though many have been lost in time. Melbourne CBD is briefly seen near the start and end of the show, mainly through office windows. A sighting of a sign for the Melbourne Theosophical Society building confirms it was Melbourne.

Filmed: Cinema Papers’ production survey January 1989 lists the film in pre-production; the March 1989 issue lists it as being in production; the May 1989 issue lists it as in post-production. Six week shoot, and according to director Argall almost four weeks of rehearsal. Argall estimated a crew of 15 or 16 for the shoot in his SBS Movie Show interview - but establishing and montage shots of Adelaide were done by him and DOP Mandy Walker working on weekends.

Australian distributor: Urban Eye

Theatrical release: the film had its “exclusive world premiere season” at the Melbourne’s Kino, with the first session sold out and Rosati’s V.I.P. opening night party, 3rd August 1990 at evening's end. The film opened the following Thursday, 9th August 1990 in Sydney at the Academy Twin.

Video release: Home Cinema Group

Rating: M

Shot on standard 16mm (not super 16) and blown up to 35mm for theatrical release 

Fuji colour stock

Running time: 87 mins (Murray’s Australian Film); 86 mins (Cinema Papers, Stratton’s The Avocado Plantation)

Umbrella DVD time: 1’23”33

Box office:

While it won the AFI award for best director, and was given glowing reviews, the film didn’t break wide at the box office.

The Film Victoria report on Australian box office noted a humble $60,000 for domestic returns, equivalent to $97,800 in A$ 2009.

The film also didn’t travel well internationally - perhaps the lack of action, the parochial Adelaide elements or the obvious 16mm low budget atmosphere didn’t help. Nevertheless, over the years, the film has remained a cult favourite, especially amongst social realists and Adelaide nostalgists.

 

Opinion

Awards

Ray Argall performed a magic trick of the kind beloved of film awards, by winning Best Director at the 1990 AFI awards, while the film didn’t even score a nomination in the Best Film category (Flirting won; Blood Oath, Struck by Lightning and The Big Steal with the other nominees).

Argall also wasn’t nominated in the screenplay category.

Winner, Qantas Award for Best Achievement in Direction (Ray Argall).

Nominated, Hoyts Group Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Frankie J. Holden) (Max von Sydow won for Father)

The film also picked up a couple of awards at the short lived Film Critics Circle of Australia awards, as recorded in Filmnews, March 1991.

Producer John Cruthers accepted on behalf of writer/director Ray Argall and producer Cristina Pozzan the awards for:

Best Film

Best Director

The film was invited to the Panorama section of the 1990 Berlin Film Festival. It also screened at the Spoleto Film and Video Festival.

Filmnews, Mach 1992, carried this report on the Berlin screening (by Helen Harlow using it as an introduction to a story about the Wursburg Festival):

...Ray Argall was ecstatic when he walked into a near capacity house for the screening of his film. Return Home, at the Berlin Film Festival two years ago. But after twenty minutes a third of the audience walked out. Even for the mildmannered Argall, this was not easy to take. However Argall later realised that he did not fare so badly; in Berlin lesser known films frequently play to near empty houses …

Unsurprisingly the film opened the Adelaide FRAMES festival and received a glowing review in Filmnews October 1990 (see this site's reviews section).

Over the years the film has attracted the favourable attention of cinephiles. For example, film curator and buff Bruce Hodsdon in 2015 put it amongst his top twenty Australian films - the full list is here

It also made a number of film buff top five lists in the December 1990 'year in review' edition of Filmnews, see Trove here


Availability

The film was restored by the National Film and Sound Archive and given a digital release by Umbrella.

While the sound was good - good enough to hear the audience in the economically purchased performance of the Dvorak New World Symphony used in lieu of underscore - the picture was poor quality.

Much of this is no doubt due to the way the film was shot on 16mm and subsequently blown up to 35mm. Sometimes the grain almost eats the screen alive, and there would have been a good case to ignore the theatrical framing and return to the original 16mm negative and the Academy format (thereby also avoiding some of the cropping that clearly occurred in the blow up process).

Later TV screenings and streaming releases show the same problems, and it's unlikely a high definition version would do anything except draw attention to the flaws, unless it involved re-mastering of the original negative.

That said, it was still good for this film to be given an early digital release, and for anyone wanting a more detailed review of it, there’s one at Michael’s DVD here.

The release also came with a handy set of extras, including:

Behind the Scenes - Deleted Scenes: running 7’45”. The scenes include: 

  • Noel counting down to a 100 for a ‘ready or not’, and then playing a hide and seek game using the wrecked car in the back yard and talking a little family history with the kids; 
  • Steve and Gary at work in the servo, with Gary having trouble with the motor, and Steve fixing the idling (“smart arse,” says Gary). Steve takes a phone call from Noel, smiles, notes the date, and tosses the car keys to Gary, saying “I’ve got a job for you Sunshine”; 
  • Gary is working out on the heavy bag (also seen in the final cut); 
  • Gary catches up with Noel in the shopping centre car park, and they discuss Wendy getting a job in the supermarket, working with dropkicks and dickheads who keep asking her out all the time (the camera peeks inside the centre, but doesn't go inside). Gary says he’ll have to keep on his toes, noting she couldn’t stay working in a milkbar all her life. Gary says he wishes they’d “never built this fuckin’ place”. Noel says it’s a bit late for that, and asks Gary to drive him into town in search of some real Italian coffee. Gary notes they’ve got Nescafe 43 in the centre, “the real stuff”
  • Noel walks past the newsagent with a business magazine. The newsagent jokes about him looking for a corporate takeover and Noel jokes “just staying in touch George”
  • exterior of the servo as Steve works under the bonnet of a car. Noel comes up to him and watches, observing that he really enjoys his work and he’s lucky. Steve just keeps working; 
  • Noel’s inside the kids’ bedroom packing, and Judy arrives at the door. He tells her he has to go back and has written them a note. "Great timing eh," she says, hugging him, and telling him to come back soon. He apologises saying he didn’t want to wake Steve, and waves goodbye; 
  • Night and Steve’s outside a pub. Inside Barry is talking to him about a woman, but Steve isn’t buying. Barry wonders what’s wrong with him and suggests he’s got someone in Adelaide and he’s been holding out and that’s why he wouldn’t come back. Whatever you want to believe Barry, says Noel. Barry tells him to forget the romantic notions of picking up where he left off, they’ve got a business to run. They don’t need him, he does. “Yeah I know,” says Noel, “but I need them.”

None of the scenes add much - though Noel saying goodbye to Judy might have softened the abruptness of his farewell note - and it’s easy to see why they’ve been cut.

The one scene that might have intrigued some viewers - Noel's encounter with his father over tea - was deliberately never a part of the film. 

Behind the Scenes - Goof Reel: running 2’09” - a typical wrap party exercise featuring cast and crew on location. Classical music is on the soundtrack;

Behind the Scenes - Photo Montage: 86 images on autoplay of publicity stills, cast and crew photos etc. In autoplay mode, it runs 7’24”, this time with what sounds like generic modern library music. J. Van Loendersloot was the unit stills photographer, and did a good job

SBS Movie Show, broadcast edit: this version runs 4’14” and is as broadcast by SBS, with David Stratton interviewing director Ray Argall. Stratton starts off by complaining that the film wasn’t nominated for Best Film, though it was nominated for Best Director at the AFI awards.

Stratton begins with the themes in the film, and Argall leads off by saying it’s about progress and change in people’s lives.

Argall also discusses casting of the four key characters, and Argall explains - regarding a possible scene with the parents - that at no stage in the development or production process did he ever want to meet the parents. It’s another story, but he notes the decision produced mixed reactions, with some relieved not to have to watch such a scene and others questioning the decision.

Argall didn’t think he could just do a taster; viewers would have wanted the scene to be substantial, and it was really a story about the central group working together and the parents weren’t relevant. There’s enough information through the brothers talking about it.

SBS Movie Show, complete interview: this is the full, unedited version of Stratton’s interview with Ray Argall, running 14’16”. This is a better one for buffs (even if Stratton’s breathing is audible), with Stratton starting off by asking Argall how he made the transition from DOP to directing.

Argall reveals he lived in Adelaide for two and a half years and is very fond of the place, having headed there at the age of 17 as a way of breaking away from home. He says he originally wrote the script in 1982, telling a German questioner that he didn’t have Ben Mendelsohn in mind - he jokes Mendelsohn would have been in nappies when the role was first written.

After discussing casting, Argall gets into the rehearsal period (3 weeks in Melbourne, a week in Adelaide) and that’s when changes were made to the script. Once on set they stuck pretty much to the script as written. He talks about nipping a tendency to Ockerism and directing the two kid performers (Stratton liked their natural performances), and then moves on to talking about working with DOP Mandy Walker. Argall also discusses the reaction to the film at the Berlin Film Festival, noting that German and French friends liked the atmosphere or heart of the film, but they had trouble picking up some of the Australian dialogue.

Theatrical Trailer for Return Home: the 1’56” domestic version, in 4:3 and without the level of grain on view in the feature. “Sometimes it’s the simple things that make life a great adventure. Return Home - when going back is the best way forward.”

Two short films by Ray Argall:

Julie Julie …: a 1983 25’17” drama in widescreen format;

Dogfood: Argall’s 1978 AFTRS student film, shot in black and white and running 20’34”. Amusingly Argall ends the film by attacking the AFTRS copyright logo with a burning cigarette butt.

Neither of the shorts are particularly successful but the thematics - wandering loner on Ducati motorbike who hitches up with a divorced motor mechanic father and his child in Julie Julie..., and unemployed loner who hits the road in Dogfood - are in very much the same vein as Return Home.

As for the film itself, it was much loved by reviewers at the time, though the low-budget nature of the enterprise is now even more noticeable.

It also contains a few indulgences - such as Joe Camilleri turning up to play a busker, no doubt because he was on location with his partner Micki Camilleri, who plays Judy in the film. Dramatically, it’s a gratuitous scene, but hey, if Marty Scorsese can put his mum in Goodfellas, where’s the harm?

As for the rest, it’s a film that will be most appreciated by people who think moving to Adelaide for the quiet life is a good idea. Family, an honest day’s work, emotional commitment, and life in a lazy Adelaide summer (and never mind the scorching heat).

The film proceeds by way of a series of chats amongst the five key players - John Fordish-Steve and his alieanted brother Noel; Steve’s heart of gold supportive partner Judy; and wanna be wild one petrol, with testerone fuelled but heart of gold Gary who eventually decides to settle down with Wendy.

While Steve eventually makes half-hearted attempts to adapt to the world of modern business, inevitably his brother Noel decides to return to this personal Brigadoon.

It’s the sort of film that some find entrancing, while others will start singing Paul Kelly’s song about the aunts lurking on the verandah in Adelaide.

It represents a last flourish of 1980s government film body social realism, with a romantic, warm hearted glow, and the thing that makes it work is the restraint of script, direction and camera, and the restrained, authentic dignity of the playing.

Dennis Coard never did better work, nor did Frankie J. Holden and the rest of the cast - Ben Mendelsohn, Micki Camelleri - are also exemplary in their own way, even if Camelleri is limited as the dutiful wife, and even if, when it comes to Rachel Rains’ Wendy, it’s not through technique but rather through intuitive emotional conviction.

The film proceeds by way of a series of chats, sometimes overheard, between this intersecting, essentially five hander drama, with montages of Adelaide and Adelaide oddities acting as relief and distraction - that way, we see Brighton, the Magic Mountain, Woodroofes' lemonade, the notorious pie floater (a pie in a thick sludge of pea soup, with gravy) and many other sights, not least the servo at the heart of the drama and the endless flat roads around it.

The result is ethnographic, and riven with nostalgia, all the more so as decades later the nostalgia is enhanced by distance (what is this talk of mini-marts and self-service pumps and video stores as a good business?)

It’s done in a curious mix of Ozu and The Last Picture Show, aka The Last Servo, with a few hints of Zen and the Art of Motorcar Maintenance, and though nothing much happens, the undercurrents are very old school Australian. 

The message is also a tad deceptive. Few people return home and if they do, it rarely turns out to have a nostalgic, romantic sheen of hazy, lazy summer days.

This perhaps helps explain why the film has a limited audience, but while the demographic might be limited - there aren’t that many who can fondly remember living in Adelaide in the 1980s - it retains an audience that loves it. Some people even love living in Adelaide.

For those who want to try before they buy, the ASO has three clips from the film here, though as usual the clips are chosen to be school-safe PG, when the most exciting thing in the dialogue, or the action, is the dinkum low-key swearing.

 

1. Source:

The film was restored as part of the Kodak/Atlab cinema initiative. The NFSA listing for this seems to have disappeared from its site, and as Ray Argall wrote a recollection about the scripting and production of the film, it seems worthwhile to bring that back to life:

Reflections on the making of Return Home

The 1989 feature film, Return Home, was recently reprinted with remastered soundtrack as part of the National Film and Sound Archive's Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection. The director, Ray Argall recollects the stories behind the making of the film.

'The idea to make this film started from childhood and teenage memories. There were my memories of living in Adelaide; the endless summers, the unique suburban geography, the vast beaches, the long and straight streets lined with stobie poles stretching into the horizon, and the car culture. Then there were my memories of the local shopping centres where I grew up, and how they had become an endangered species, especially the corner garage. They'd just bulldozed one of these shopping centres to make way for a freeway, and I watched those small businesses and their customers search for a replacement. It wasn't just the convenience, it was the social life that surrounded these stores. Like the hardware shop where I would always be given jelly beans when delivering the paper, or any of the characters I knew who were now homeless in a way, and at a complete loss to do anything about the changes or wheels of progress that had rolled over them.

I wrote the first draft of the script in 1982, and it was seven years before we got the finance to make it. It was fully financed by Film Victoria and the Australian Film Commission (AFC). The budget was very tight but we were used to that, and it allowed us a lot of freedom to produce the film the way we wanted to. I remember a completion guarantor saying to our lawyer about a previous job: 'Ah, they're just a bunch of friends making a film, they won't go over budget'. That's how we worked, and we'd learnt to be resourceful working on low budget music videos, documentaries and shorts.

We worked out of a small office that we shared with some other filmmakers. Cristina Pozzan was the producer. There were always hurdles to jump. I remember the AFC ringing after the second days shoot in an absolute panic because they'd just realised we were shooting without a continuity or make-up person. I had to work hard to convince them we knew what we were doing!

I remember doing the casting, that we also did out of our small office, and having Ben Mendelsohn come in and bound around the place like a big puppy, but he was so obviously right for the part. Frankie J Holden, on the other hand, did not put in a good first reading, but I'd seen him in a short film that Jocelyn Moorehouse had made, and he was very good, so we gave him a screen test. We moved up-market for the screen tests and did them in Cristina's flat! Frankie was very strong in the test, and become a rock of Gibraltar during the shoot.

There were some magical moments: I remember going down to the pier at Brighton to shoot a scene at the end of the day. We had a reduced crew, the sun was setting and there was a lot to cover. Mandy Walker, shooting her first feature (and the start of the lipstick holder on the dolly), managed to move the camera up and down the entire length of the pier several times to get some magical shots as the sun set and we chased the last ten minutes of light. There were other memories over the shoot; racing Frankie to the airport every weekend so he could play the gigs booked for his band and putting together the pie cart scene where we ended up with a whole bunch of 'real' extras!

Kerith Holmes, the art director, built that service station from scratch. It was an empty shell, and working with a tiny crew they created a real living environment. It must've been good because we were constantly harassed by cars wanting to fill-up with petrol while we were filming! It's funny how life imitates art (or cinema in case) and several years later that location did become a franchise - the 'you got it, we sell it sorta place' as Frankie says in the film.

The music was very important to me in this film. I'd brought in a lot of classical music from my parents (my father is actually playing clarinet on one of the classical pieces) and a collection of independent Australian bands that gave us the rights to their music for a very reasonable price. Ken Sallows was the editor and he worked a miracle with this material.

Dean Gawen and Rex Watts did the sound post. The budget was tiny and they were re-recording in the bathroom; doing foley and post-synch in lounge rooms and backyards (we couldn't afford a post-synch studio). We even gave them the keys to the company car (a weathered old EH Holden - also appearing in the film) for all their car effects and lugging gear.

In the end, it's a miracle that films get made sometimes, and even more astounding when they succeed. Making Return Home was a wonderful experience with a great group of people who all wanted to contribute something. There's always a little melancholy when you finish a project, but then it has its own life, and the audience bring their own meanings to it. Return Home really struck a chord with so many people, and it's a great honour to have it restored as part of the Kodak/Atlab Cinema Collection.’

David Stratton provided these details about Ray Argall’s early career, while writing up his ‘outstanding feature’ Return Home in Stratton’s survey of the 1980s, The Avocado Plantation:

… Argall (b. 1957 in Melbourne) started making Super-8 films when he was young and studied at the AFTRS from 1977 to 1979. While he was still a student, he photographed Ian Pringle’s 50-minute featurette Wronsky (1979).

In 1980, Argall and John Cruthers founded a company, Musical Films, to produce music clips and music related productions; Argall directed Pop Movie, a series of six half-hour programmes (shown on ABC television) about the rock music industry. He also photographed a number of significant low-budget feature films: Ian Pringle’s The Plains of Heaven, Wrong World and The Prisoner of St Petersburg; Brian McKenzie’s With Love to the Person Next to Me; and Mary Callaghan’s Tender Hooks 

According to Stratton, Argall’s father moved to Adelaide after his parents divorced, which might explain why Argall also made the shift.

Ray Argall’s later production company Piccolo Films was online here, and had a CV for Argall. 

Bill Masoulis also prepared a biography and critical overview for Innersense here.

It’s unsurprising that one of Argall’s treasures should be Two-Lane Blacktop, as can be found on the ABC’s radio station RN here

2. Cast:

Frankie J. Holden: Holden came to fame in the 1970s as lead singer for retro rock band Ol’ 55, and this film was a rare chance for him to take the lead role. His other acting work tended to be television based, and he has a relatively detailed wiki here.

Dennis Coard: according to David Stratton, Coard had spent fifteen years of his life working for Telecom (the press book suggested 16 years). 

In the SBS interview with Ray Argall, Argall notes Coard came from Adelaide and then spent three years at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, and he was cast there, rather than in Adelaide.

Coard had done a few roles - in sponsored docs etc - before doing Return Home and he remained a working actor, though mainly in television, including a stint on Home and Away in the 1990s, and in the new millennium as Father O’Leary in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and as Grandpa in the 2016 Nowhere Boys. He ended up married to Debra Lawrance, who has a wiki here

Ben Mendelsohn: at the time he was doing this film, Mendelsohn was the hot young thing of Australian actors. He continued on with a long career, recorded in his relatively detailed wiki here.

Micki (also Mickey) Camilleri, who plays Steve's wife Judy, was married to singer Joe Camilleri (he has a wiki here) and she first appeared in the women’s auxiliary in Strikebound. In the 1990s, she also turned up in Spotswood (aka The Efficiency Expert), Armstrong’s Last Days of Chez Nous and Lowenstein’s Say a Little Prayer, as well as a variety of TV roles.

Rachel Rains: Most databases record Rains, who played Gary’s girlfriend Wendy, as appearing in only one other film, the Adelaide-shot Sebastian and the Sparrow. This was a very minor role. Rains shouldn’t be confused with an American psychic and an American actress with the same name.

3. Cinema Papers:

First it’s worth noting that Peter Malone’s invaluable website has an interview with writer/director Ray Argall, done in March 1998 when Argall was 40, in which the film is discussed, here

That interview, at time of writing, was easily accesible. 

Less accessible, and so reprinted here, is the report and interview is the one Scott Murray did with Ray Argall for Cinema Papers, March 1990, which contains much detail about the making of the film, as well as opening with a very positive assessment by Murray:

One of the great joys for any film-lover is to discover a new and promising director. Inevitably, that resultant enthusiasm can lead to an over-rating of what appears to stand out from the rest. However, there is no danger of false praise in heralding Ray Argall and his first feature as writer-director, Return Home: quite simply, it is one of the finest Australian films made in the 1980s.

Argall is well known as the director of photography on films of Ian Pringle (Wronsky, Wrong World and The Prisoner of St Petersburg) and others (Mary Callaghan’s Tender Hooks). With Andrew de Groot and Sally Bongers, he heads the new wave of Australian cinematographers. But Argall’s interests lie wider than that. He has made several short films and edited others, including three features. More important, he will be remembered from the start of this new decade as a filmmaker of real note, one with an exceptional maturity and a sure grasp of technique.

For many, Australian cinema had soured badly as the flavour of the month, but in the last few years of the 1980s along came a batch of films that gave hope and restored enthusiasm. Return Home is yet another reason to approach Australia’s cinematic future with a renewed confidence.

Early Days

In 1973, Argall attended the Brinsley Road alternative school and was in the same film class as fellow directors Richard Lowenstein and Ned Lander. After graduating, he made several films in Super 8, before applying to the Experimental Film Fund and getting money for his first 16mm short, Morning Light. Says Argall: “All my Super 8 stuff, and I guess some of my 16mm, was pretty self-indulgent. Hopefully, I have worked it out of my system.” At the time, Argall supported himself by working freelance as a boom swinger and camera assistant. His next film was Parnassus - “a dreadful name”.

In all those early films, I used friends and people I knew. That means you get a certain dramatic style. It was really good training because you actually had to work a lot on the drama to get what you felt was dramatically right. It was quite amazing to work later on with professional actors and see how much further you can go - not that I want to put down the others, because some people are naturals and do a terrific job.

But people who haven’t acted before on film don’t know about how to move, how to react to and work with a camera. I found this on a lot of the cinematography I have done. On Prisoner of St Petersburg, for example, Katya Teichman was a very experienced theatre actor, but she hadn’t done film before and didn’t have the technical experience. On a performance level, theatre people tend to go too large and it takes a while for them to settle down and discover what works well on film. They have to learn about eye-lines and what you can do in front of a camera, like the difference between a close-up and a wider shot, what you have to do to make the performance read. That is why I’ve always had, even on the earlier films, a long rehearsal period.

After debating whether to go to Swinburne or the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, Argall finally opted for Sydney:

I was there for three years and made one film, Dog Food (sic, the film's title in the film is dogfood), which I really like. It is one of the few films where I felt I’d achieved what I had set out to do. It was probably quite influenced by the fact that (later producer) John Cruthres and I used to watch a lot of Bresson and Ozu films.

Unfortunately, the Film School hated my film. They hated the way I made it and didn’t want to know about it. But I was still very happy with it.

Argall was not the only student to find his work less than enthusiastically received: many of staff at the AFTRS, for example, didn’t want Jane Campion’s Peel completed because they thought it was incompetent.

“And there is this other guy, Mick Clarke, whose films were dramatically some of the best the Film School has ever produced. But he must have done something wrong - he was arrogant or offended someone, I don’t know - because he had a very hard time of it.

The School can be so bureaucratic. At the time I was there, it had twice as many staff as there were students. It has changed a lot since then, however, and I have been impressed by a lot of the stuff that has come out of it. And the fact remains that a lot of good people go to the Film School; it is where I met people like John Cruthers, whom I’m still working with. In that sense alone, bringing good people together, the Film School has made a contribution to the film industry.”

After the AFTRS, Argall came back to Melbourne and worked as a sound editor, before moving into the then new field of rock music clips.

“There were quite a few independent filmmakers around, and they tended to slip in and out of doing them. There was Richard Lowenstein, Andrew de Groot, John Hillcoat, Paul Goldman and Evan English, all out of Swinburne and all working for absolute peanuts. I don’t know how many of them are still doing clips. I’m certainly not. Maybe the feeling is mutual - me and the record companies.”

In 1982, Argall made another short film, Julie, Julie …, about a girl who has left home and is riding around Australia on a motorbike.

“We didn’t have funding for that, so it was a matter of getting people together who were prepared to work for $100 a week. It was only a two-week shoot, and I used some of the money we’d made out of rock clips.

I really enjoyed doing that film, but nothing really came of it. It is very hard to do anything with shorts.”

At the same time, Argall had begun shooting features for some of Australia’s leading independent directors.

I did Ian Pringle’s second film, Wronsky, while I was still at Film School, even though they wouldn’t let me do it as an attachment. They didn’t think - what an irony - that it would be a learning experience. They wanted people to go and work with professionals, but, from my point of view, the best way to get experience was to go out and shoot 60 to 70 rolls of stock.

I have kept doing Ian’s films over the years: Plains Of Heaven in 1982, Wrong World in 1984 and Prisoner of St Petersburg last year. I also did Tender Hooks for Mary Callaghan. I was in a great position, because these were films I really wanted to do. From a cinematographic point of view, they were quite challenging.”

Argall also worked extensively as an editor, cutting some of the Pringle features and also Brian McKenzie’s With Love to the Person Next to Me. “Editing is a fantastic grounding, and that is mostly what I did at Film School.”

It was also there that Argall wrote his first feature screenplay, the still-unproduced “Dog Food No. 2”. It was his second screenplay, however, written in 1982, that would mark his breakthrough as a writer-director.

Return Home

Return Home is the story of one man’s coming to terms with his past and the responsibility and rewards of family love. Noel (Dennis Coard), in his late thirties, is a successful insurance broker in Melbourne who returns home one summer to the Adelaide suburb of his childhood. There, he stays with his elder brother, Steve (Frankie J. Holden), wife Judy (Micki Camilleri) and their two children. Steve runs a garage in a shopping centre that is going backwards financially in the age of American franchises and a dearth of customer service. Steve is a gifted car mechanic with a real love for his job, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Both he and the ideals he stands for are on borrowed time.

Argall sets up this tale - of the negative forces of progress held tentatively at bay by one man’s inherent goodness - as a metaphor for Australian society today. Values are changing in the face of altering consumer demand: local shopping centres are being replaced by impersonal supermarkets and a wasteland of drive-in food and video marts.

These ‘generations’ of Australian consumerism and service are linked with generations of ‘family’. Argall begins his film with a brief scene of Noel, Judy and Steve in their late teens, when the local paperboy was a young Gary. Now Gary (Ben Mendelsohn) is an apprentice mechanic (when he is not absent, fretting about his stalling relationship with Wendy (Rachel Rains), Steve is his struggling boss and Noel the emigré who left family and home. But Noel soon senses within himself emotional changes set off by the economic and social changes around him. And when he returns to his Melbourne office, the once seemingly irrelevant family snapshots now resonantly imbued with meaning, one senses a stand will be made.

Simply but effectively shot (Argall cuts and tracks only when he really needs to), with a subtle and affecting screenplay, and an understated level of performance rare in Australian film, Return Home is deserving of every bit of praise it will undoubtedly receive. That is not to say it is perfect - the otherwise carefully judged pace falters momentarily past the middle, some scenes drift a fraction too much and there is the odd gratuitous moment - but the flaws don’t detract significantly. Return Home is a significant achievement.

Before leaving for overseas, and, as it would later turn out, a visit to the Berlin Film Festival, where his film was screened in the Panorama section, Argall spoke with his former Brinsley Road film teacher.

Murray: One of the unusual aspects of Return Home is that you have written a first film with characters older than yourself. The Wild Strawberry like concept of a man’s returning home and being affected by all the changes is generally associated with directors of an older age group, ones who have perhaps reached a more reflective point in their lives.

Argall: (Laughs) Maybe I will go backwards and do kids’ films when I get old!

When I first wrote Return Home, the characters were even older. Maybe that came from observing a lot of people in that age group who had reached the point of not knowing where to go with their lives. I felt I was in the middle, between the young petrol-head apprentice and the older two brothers.

I had met some people who’d run a little service station in Burnie, Tasmania, and the stories they told were very colourful. That is probably where the original idea germinated.

In terms of what ended up on screen, the film is no longer based on them specifically, although the setting is. However, I did go back to them for more research, to find out how they actually operated, what sort of pressures they were under and so on.

Murray: Your film can be read as a metaphor of economic and social changes within Australia. Most pointed is the scene where Steve says he doesn’t want to make money, he just wants to stay in business. He stands for a work ethic that has been largely eroded by progress.

Argall: Exactly. Progress has a momentum that cannot be stopped. It just rolls along, taking a lot of people in its stride. In the years to come, people will probably look back and say, “Gee, I miss that little garage that used to be on the corner. The people were always really nice to me.” Maybe the garage has been replaced by a McDonald’s store. In fact, the site where we filmed - it was an empty service station - is now a Hungry Jack’s.

It is sad that these people who were providing a service are pressured by diminishing profits into surrendering to a finance company. It is a major problem.

Murray: There is something noble about Steve’s resistance to progress, though he presumably adapts a little to it after film’s end. Without being sentimental, you detail a fineness in the man that resists being crushed.

Argall: I’m glad that has come across, because it is difficult portraying something like that. One accepts that progress is inevitable, which is not all bad, but there are aspects which are, such as the effect on people like Steve. That is why others, particularly Noel, are trying to find ways to mix the two. Sadly, there may not be a point at which they can meet.

Murray: You do, however, end on a note of optimism, which is unusual in that most films about the negative effects of progress end on a sour note, as if believing it makes the point more forcibly.

Argall: Personally, I think there was no point being negative at the end of this film. The whole point is that Noel realizes that what he is doing in life has limitations, and that he could apply some of what he knows to help his brother. You do not know what will come of it, but Noel has made the step to try and do something, no matter how little, that might actually affect people for the better. And because it is with people he feels close to, it is probably more rewarding than pulling off a few really big insurance deals in Melbourne.

So I went for an optimistic suggestion at the end, hoping that might make people think a little more about things. People like to be rewarded at the end of a film.

Murray: Another aspect that remains quite subtle is the sense of generations passing. The film opens when Gary was a paperboy; you then cut forward to him as an apprentice, while a new paperboy rides his bike past the garage.

Argall: That stuff is touch and go, and again is really hard to get right. It was one of several things I was interested in showing about the shopping centre which surrounds the garage. But it’s very difficult to show the subtle changes progress imposes on the small group of shops without making the film look like a documentary or a soap opera.

Murray: You mentioned earlier you always like to rehearse your actors extensively. Did you do this on Return Home?

Argall: Yes, we had nearly four weeks of rehearsals, which is quite a lot. I really wouldn’t want any less, because that is where we ironed out all the bumps.

I have noticed from shooting other people’s films that actors tend to get rather frustrated if they don’t have enough of the director’s time. If they do get a lot of it in rehearsals and pre-production, most of their questions will get answered.

Murray: To what extent did you rewrite the script during rehearsals?

Argall: Not a lot. It depended on whether things were working or not, whether actors wanted to re-phrase lines so as to feel more comfortable with them, which sometimes works.

Quite often, when you edit a scene after the shoot, you find that what you developed in rehearsals is the key to that scene. They are the moments you really want to keep, and some of the stuff you previously thought essential can be cut.

A good example is the scene where Noel and Gary are sitting on the beach, looking out to sea, with some kids playing in the distance. Gary is a kid trapped in this big country town, Adelaide, and he’s interested in the guy who is more worldly. Noel has come from where Gary is now and achieved something, even if that path isn’t one he wants to follow. Likewise, Noel is interested in Gary’s problem with his girlfriend, Wendy. He’s looking back to problems he’s had in working out a relationship. Since leaving Adelaide, Noel hasn’t been able to adjust, and he can see in Gary some of the things he is facing.

As originally scripted, the scene had a lot of stuff that on the surface told you what the characters were thinking. But in rehearsals, the actors played around to see what they could come up with - the way to look at each other, how to work around the subject without going directly to it. In the end, a lot of the explicit dialogue I had written was cut.

Of course, it can go the other way. One scene I extended is where Gary goes to see Wendy and they talk on the verandah. That had stayed pretty much as it was written since the first draft. But when we came to shoot it, the actress playing Wendy, Rachel Rains, didn’t fall under Ben’s charm, which believe me can be quite substantial. That made Ben try even harder, which worked really well in the scene.

There is quite a lovely moment at the end where she asks, “What’s that stuff you’re wearing?” Gary has put on too much after-shave, and he replies, “Oh, it’s one of Dad’s.” She says, “I like the smell of petrol better.” The actors managed to carry the moment on a little, which works really nicely. I’m not one for extending scenes unnecessarily, but it had always felt a little blunt the way I had written it. Now it is beautifully resolved.

There are all sorts of things you should look at in trying to get a roundness to a scene, in making sure it concludes effectively.

Murray: It is, on the whole, a precisely acted film. You detail aspects of Australian behaviour without ever slipping into ocker caricature.

Argall: I have always been critical of the clichéd, stereotyped way Aussies are portrayed. It is not true to my understanding of Australian working-class people. I don’t know if it comes from the television soaps, and it is actually found most often in our films.

Maybe it is the actors, maybe the directors. I don’t know if it’s the writing, but probably not as much as people think; after all, it is the directors and actors who interpret the script.

During rehearsals, all the actors on Return Home slipped into that ocker style. The swearing, for instance, was just incredible. Unfortunately, I didn’t pulled (sic) it back early enough, and during filming I had quite a few problems with the “bloody”s and the “mate”s - “How ya bloody going mate?”, and that sort of thing. It sounds okay on the street, but not when you hear it all the time in a film.

Murray: In many Australian films, the language reeks of affectation, as if the middle-class director is assuming a working-class pose.

Argall: I think you’re right. If you have been through the private-school system and university, you can easily gain a narrow view of the working classes. It is not as if such directors are not broad-minded, it is just that their understanding of others is sometimes limited by their upbringing.

Making our film in Adelaide certainly made it a lot easier for me, because that is where I went after leaving school. I got a car, hotted it up and did all those sorts of things. Although I had been making films, they were almost a hobby. It wasn’t like I went to Adelaide to find out about this way of life. I went there because I wanted to have a car and do those sort of things.

Murray: Why is Adelaide the hot-rod capital of the universe?

Argall: I really don’t know, but it sure is. The car culture there is quite incredible. You may find it a little in Tasmania, but in Adelaide, with those wide open roads, it almost feels and looks like L.A.

I first went to Adelaide in the mid 1970s. The funny thing is that when you go back there now, whole slabs of the place are just as they always were. It is a wonderful sort of time warp. You can go back to a fruit juice bar in an arcade that you remember from 20 years ago, and it is still there. Maybe it is not run by the same people, but the new owners haven’t renovated it or changed the layout. It is like one generation grows up and the next follows. Look at the obsession with Evlis and spray-on pants, and ripple-soled shoes. It is still there. Quite incredible.

Murray: So, if the film had been shot, say, in Melbourne it would not have had the same generational aspects.

Argall: Yes. I don’t think I could have made the same film in Melbourne or Sydney, which are big cities. Adelaide has something very unique.

That is why it was fantastic to shoot the film there. We stayed out at Glenelg, where we were filming, and there were cars continually going by doing all the things that are in the script. That was great for the actors, because they felt and understood the integrity the script had.

Murray: Your editor is Ken Sallows, one of the under-appreciated talents in the Australian industry.

Argall: Working with Ken was just terrific. He is a very perceptive editor, who can look at a film as a whole. When I was an editor, I was good on individual scenes, but I always had trouble with directors and producers actually getting the whole down to a workable length.

Murray: Return Home is a carefully constructed film, both overall and within scenes. Did you go onto the set knowing precisely how you would shoot each sequence?

Argall: It varied. With some scenes, I thought it was best to wait until the editing stage to find out how to structure them. This was particularly the case when two characters were just talking to each other and there was not a lot of movement.

It is terrific to be able to go on to location with an editing background, because you know how things are going to be put together. Without that knowledge, people can find eye-lines and things like that very frustrating.

Murray: You use many long two-shots in the film, particularly at the garage doors, where Noel and Steve watch out over the shopping centre.

Argall: Generally we designed the two shots we were going to use, and choreographed them specifically. Quite often in the garage we would have a two-shot where one person was in the foreground and another in the background, then someone would walk over to the bench or a car. At that point, we would cut to another two-shot. That took quite a while to set up, because it is not just as simple as having two people in frame. To cover ourselves, we would do a point-of-view cut-away or a close-up.

Mandy Walker, the director of photography, is very good on that stuff. She knows how to balance up a frame, which is a big help to me as a director; I can concentrate on everything else that is going on.

With some of the dramatic scenes, when two people are talking to each other, it is nice to cover it in just close-ups. Matching close-ups is just wonderful; you can really pick the moments and stretch them. Take for example the scene with Gary and Wendy on the porch. We did a two-shot for the opening and the ending, but the rest is all close-ups. It is really nice to be able to hold, or play an off-screen line on an actor. You can maximize the whole performance from each of the actors.

Murray: There are several brief montages in the film, generally of two or three shots, which set up the next scene. This is a technique Ozu uses and which Paul Schrader paid homage to in American Gigolo. Did you use them unconsciously in that way?

Argall: Probably not consciously, but certainly it is very nice to have those allusions.

Those little montages were very hard to get right. We spent a lot of time shooting them. Mandy and I sent out on our weekends off and shot what we could, like the kids jumping off the pier.

Murray: Which is one of the most moving images of 1980s Australian cinema.

Argall: That’s great, because that is exactly what we wanted to get out of it. It’s wonderful when you get a shot that works.

Murray: The opening of your film is like an industrialized version of the beginning of The Year My Voice Broke, with the combination of classical music and the evoking of a time past.

Argall: The placing of the music was really tricky. Originally it was a pop song from the era, and for a lot of people it worked well. But it set up expectations of a teen pic, which the film isn’t. Audiences may then have felt that what followed was a let-down.

I then thought of the Dvorak (Symphony No. 9) and I think it helped give the impression of its being a memory.

Murray: You get that in the sound mix, too, when the realistic sounds of the carpark are faded in for a few seconds.

Argall: We wanted that slightly subjective aspect to the soundtrack. I like to isolate sounds and play with them, bringing them up and down.

Dean Gawen, who did the sound recording and also mixed the film, did a really good job on that. Overall, and especially given the difficulties, the sound department did a great job.

Murray: Which raises the question of the film’s very small budget ($350,000, from the AFC). Despite what must have been inevitable production problems, the film never feels as if it suffered.

Argall: More people say that, which is good. I think the tag of low budget is really bad, and I avoid it at all cost. If people ask me what the film was made on, I say, “Under a million.”

In the end it didn’t hamper things. The cast and the crew agreed to work under the conditions, which were basically union minimum. We had a fairly reasonable schedule: it was tight, but we had time to do what we wanted to do.

Also, Mandy and I didn’t want a hand-held, graining look, but one that was really clean and sharp. That decision greatly helped the overall look of the film.

Murray: There is very little camera movement in the film.

Argall: I do not use a lot of tracking, but, when I do, it is good to have a nice long one. There are only two crane shots in the film.

We didn’t have a grip on location, so we chose in advance the three or four scenes where I wanted to move the camera. We then hired a grip for those days. It was the same when we were doing the car stuff. We had trouble doing that, but we managed to get the extra people for it.

Most of the films I have done have been with small crews. In Europe, of course, they make their 35mm features with small crews. But out here we have the Hollywood attitude of big crews. On Return Home, we probably were a bit short in the art department, and we didn’t have continuity or make-up, except for one day, when we had to make the characters look a lot younger.

All the same, there is no reason why low-budget films have to look low budget. I certainly know that.

4. Adelaide:

The film is notable for featuring a number of Adelaide landmarks, many of which are now gone, such as the Magic Mountain theme park (in the film it’s called ugly) located in seaside suburb Glenelg. It has a wiki here.

Amongst the roads to be seen there are travelling shots along the Esplanade, South and Military roads, as well as the main street in Glenelg.

The main servo and the associated cluster of suburban shops can be found at the conjunction of Military Road, Henley Beach Road and East Terrace - see this site’s wombat gallery for shots of some of the featured landscapes.

There are also any number of references to local Adelaide elements - including Southwark beer, West End beer (on signage and a T-shirt), Woodroofes’ lemonade, and pie floaters.

The astonishing, bizarre pie floater phenomenon has its own wiki listing here and was routinely treated as a symbolic induction for eastern staters and other foreigners. Cowley’s pie cart, as featured in the film, also has its own wiki listing here

The Esplanade Hotel at Brighton and the Henley Beach jetty can also be sighted.

Anyone who lived in Adelaide in the 1980s will verify the film’s verisimilitude. Naturally there are plenty of stobie poles to see.

Finally, for anyone interested in an in-joke, Noel scribbles Steve a note urging him to ring J. Cruthers re financial services.

John Cruthers was a producer who worked with Ray Argall on Ian Pringle’s The Plains of Heaven,  and who set up a company with him. Cruthers is credited on Return Home as one of the script consultants, along with Argall’s animation partner Lucinda Clutterbuck (future head of Film Australia, Sharon Connolly, was the film's script editor).

5. Release:

Domestically the film was released with Lucinda Clutterbuck's animated short film Tiga.

While much loved at the time by reviewers and critics, the film didn’t do much domestic business and also didn’t travel well internationally.

No doubt this was partly due to the very specific Australian and Adelaide feel that the film captures. It was also possibly due to the low budget look, which saw the film shot on 16mm and blown up to a grainy 35mm release print.

Tina Kaufman in Filmnews, April 1990, in a piece titled Rise and Rise of the low budget feature discussed these issues with Ray Argall.

...Ray Argall's Return Home, which is already attracting much favourable comment, although it won't be released until July, was probably made on the lowest feature budget possible, at $350,000.

"I don't really like to publicise the fact that it is a low-budget film, particularly in the US, or at a Festival like Berlin, as low-budget still seems to be a negative term. Whole hosts of UK and European films shot on 16mm. get good theatrical releases in Europe, but promotion as 'low-budget' still doesn't seem to work to the film's advantage. I'd prefer to let the film be accepted on its merits," says Argall "but I'm happy that $1 million to $2.5 million appears to be going to be the norm from now on - you can make ten films for what you were making two or three for."

Ray Argall believes that it is very healthy that people with ideas will get more opportunity to make features, as long as award conditions are adhered to, and not exploited. He thinks that there are limitations, though, and that actors and crews would find it difficult continuing to work on low-budget features. Probably they should balance working on a 16mm feature on award wages and conditions because they really like the project, with working on another project with a higher budget.'

'There are limitations for a really low-budget feature; only two or three actors, no tricky locations, no demanding special effects. The choice of 16mm or 35mm depends on the project; you'd have to use 35mm for a film with a lot of outdoor locations that's going to depend a lot on the visuals," he believes. "If you're shooting on 16mm you have to make sure that your camera equipment is excellent, and use a fine grain stock. If you are aiming for a theatrical release, though, you really need 35mm., and the funding bodies are really pushing for that."

Argall's next project as a director will probably be budgeted at about $1.2 million. “The more money you have, the harder it is to come in on budget," he confesses. "When you have next-to-no money, you know the extreme limitations under which you are working. As your budget goes up, your expectations are higher, and it's harder to meet them." 

Unfortunately Argall's next film, Eight Ball, made in too much of a rush with ABC financing flung together by Jill Robb - about a river town putting up a statue of a giant Murray cod as a tourist attraction - didn't live up to expectations, and was treated in the marketplace as a telemovie. Thereafter Argall's directing credits were limited to television.

6. Music:

Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony, From the New World, works as a replacement for conventional underscore.

According to an interview in the Sunday Age, 2nd September, 1990 Argall’s parents helped select the music (John and Barbara Argall are given a tail credit as music consultants):

For the Dvorak piece, Argall says he has his mum to thank.

“I spoke to Mum and Dad about suitable classical music for the film, and Mum said, ‘You’ve got to try this piece, it’s lovely, it’s beautiful, it’ll be perfect.' Originally, I had my suspicions though. It was almost too perfect. But there were so many movements in that piece that were really suited to what we were doing, we used it.”

Melbourne musician and composer Joe Camilleri appears as a busker in a seaside fun fair. 

A number of bands also contributed numbers to the film, such as TISM, credited under its original name This Is Serious Mum. (wiki that band here).

See this site’s pdf of music credits for more details.

7. Date:

This film is sometimes dated to 1990, as in Murray’s Australian Film and the film’s wiki here, but it carries a copyright notice for 1989 and was finished in that year.

This site dates films to their year of production rather than their domestic release - many 10BA films were never given a theatrical release and went straight to television or tape.

David Stratton included the film within his survey of the 1980s 10BA decade, The Avocado Plantation (with a glowing review of the film), given that the film was shot and completed in 1989 (and also perhaps given the film’s quality and social realist interest up against a lot of the 10BA dross).

8. Detailed synopsis, with dialogue samples, cast details and many spoilers:

After a montage of Adelaide scenes, including its petrolhead culture, jetty-jumping and cricket - to the sounds of Dvorak’s New World symphony - we see Noel (Dennis Coard), taking a snap of his then partner, Lynne (uncredited), his brother Steve (Frankie J. Holden) and his partner Judy (Micki Camilleri) outside their Henley Beach road service station in Adelaide. The snap is interrupted by young Gary (Che Bojko) racing through on his bike …

Fast forward and Noel is now working in a high powered, high rise, but dull insurance business in Melbourne.

Noel tells his business partner Barry (Alan Fletcher), whatever the business complications, he’s sick of putting in 80 hours a week and he’s heading back to Adelaide to see his brother.

Noel is met at Adelaide airport by older Gary (Ben Mendelsohn), an apprentice mechanic who now works with Steve.

Gary drives a hoonmobile he bought from a wrecker for 75 bucks, and plays punk music loudly.

Noel confesses he drives a Mazda 626, a company car, and Gary embarks on a rant on how you’d have to be mad to buy one of those cars. They’re built like a tin can, and you wouldn’t want to have a stack in one of them. In fact he saw a stack once …went smack bang up the arse, as Gary drives erratically down South road.

Gary puts in some of Noel’s music in the car’s cassette player, and the punk sounds give way to Mozart, as Gary perves on a female pedestrian Gail (Michelle Stanley) crossing the road.

When Gary asks Noel what’s wrong with him, Noel says he used to go to school with her. “She’s alright.”

Gary reckons you might be better off without women, and when he toots another driver, Noel jokes about the driver getting his license from a wheaties’ packet.

A paperboy (Michael Coard) heads past the local newsagent (Adrian Shirley) and greets Judy as he races past on his bike.

Steve (nicknamed Elvis) comes out to meet his brother (nickname Nugget) and Gary as they arrive with a screech of brakes.

Steve puts Gary back to work on cars and Noel jokes he thought petrolheads were a dying breed.

After checking out the changes in the shops around the servo, and catching up on family news, Steve shows off his new second hand hoist which he got from a station that closed down in Woodville.

Then Noel borrows the car to head home.

Gary: “Your brother drives a 626!”

Steve: “I can’t help it if he’s got no taste.”

Gary: “What’s he do?”

Steve: “Ah, he sells insurance or something.”

Gary: “Oh yeah?! How’d he get into that?”

Steve: “Ah he didn’t want to follow me in the old man’s footsteps.”

Gary: “Jeeze, he must be pretty good huh?”

Steve: “He makes a quid.”

Gary: “Well I mean he must have been clever.”

Steve: “He was a fuckin’ pain in the arse!”

They go back to work, as Noel arrives at his brother’s home.

He walks slowly via the lounge room and family photos into the kids’ bedroom where he’ll be staying.

Judy arrives and they hug and she offers him a cuppa, explaining that Steve had to sack their last mechanic, and he’s been doing all the work with Gary. “Tanks are down to a quarter and we’re late for our next drop, and doing a juggling act with the accounts to stretch out to the end of the month.”

Steve arrives with beers, telling Judy he’s sorted out the accounts but he’s still having trouble with the XT’s head gasket. Judy tells him she saw the tanker down at Mason’s but they didn’t come to them.

Steve: “Maybe we can try a midnight drop.”

The kids arrive, young Wally (Ryan Rawlings) and older, nine and a half Clare (Gypsy Lukewood). 

Steve reminds Noel the parents are expecting him for tea on Saturday.

They do a beer toast. “Good old Southwark, cheers,” says Noel.

Noel falls asleep watching television, and Steve switches off the box.

Noel wakes in the morning, and looks out the window to see Judy hanging out the washing and Wally playing. Clare brings him a cup of tea and a newspaper.

She asks him if he’s coming back to live - mummy said he might be coming back - but Noel says he has to get back to work and Aunty Lynne won’t be coming anymore. He thanks her for the use of her room and she gives him a stuffed rabbit for company.

At the servo Gary is having trouble, and Steve notes that ‘sunshine’ is in a good mood, asking what’s up.

Nuthin, Gary says, but then he drops a spanner, and Steve offers to give him a hand, getting into the pit while Gary pumps the pedal. As they work on the vehicle, the reason for Gary’s grumpiness emerges.

Gary: “I had a fight with Wendy.”

Steve: “Right, pump it up …what happened?”

Gary: “Ah she reckons she doesn’t want to see me anymore.”

Steve: “Right, again… how come?”

Gary: “Beats me …”

Steve: “You must have some idea …yeah, how’s that feel?”

Gary: “Yeah, it’s pretty good …needs adjusting (he gets out of the car) Ah she’s a bit dark on me for staying in the pub the other night. I bloody well forgot we were supposed to go to the flicks together …”

Steve (chuckling): “You’d forget your bloody head if it wasn’t screwed on sometimes …”

(Tossing the spanner at Gary, who drops it).

Steve: “Hey … clumsy bastard, aren’t ya?”

Gary: “Yeah well I can’t help it if I’m not Mr A Grade Mechanic yet!”

Steve: “There’s nothing wrong with your work … it’s just your attitude.”

Judy comes in to ask when that van will be ready and Steve goes to take a look, saying he’ll do it by tomorrow.

An angry customer (John Crouch) turns up to complain about the job he did on the transmission, saying it makes a funny noise.

Steve checks out the car and insists it’s fine.

Gary: “No pleasing some people is there?”

Steve: “Nah, no matter what you do, they always complain. Ah ya just lose money on those jobs …”

A surfie picks up a girl across the road - Gary refuses to bet on marriage - paperboy Jim delivers the paper, and big brother arrives.

“Little brother, smart arse,” says Steve, thumping his head with the paper.

Gary: “Noel …still listening to your retard music mate?”

Noel: “At least I don’t get a headache after three minutes.”

Judy arrives asking Gary to pick up the kids, but Noel offers to go, and we cut to the kids and Noel driving along, conducting to the sounds of classical music (Handel’s Messiah) which cues another montage of Adelaide sights.

Noel’s at home playing with the kids when Steve arrives with Bertie Beetles and asks who’s the four eyes (Noel in glasses).

Judy tells Steve she’s organised a midnight drop of about a 1,000 litres, but she’s worried they’ve got enough to cover it if he drops too much into the tank.

Noel: “Don’t you have credit with an oil company?”

Steve: “Credit? No cash, no juice. And they get slack about filling our tanks because we don’t sell enough petrol. Every now and again we have to get a bit slack and organise some on the sly … ”

Judy: “Well don’t just stand there looking beautiful, there’s work to be done out here …”

Steve heads out to the kitchen and gives Judy a hug, as Noel watches fondly.

Night and the drop goes ahead.

Morning and Wally plays in the yard with the dog.

Raucous music wakes Noel, who beats along with his toes.

Later he puts out the garbage.

Cut to the servo. Noel is handling the phone, taking messages.

Gary is checking a car for a mate, Brian (Ryan Rawlings), who asks him about Wendy and accuses him of being a suck, not able to handle women. “It takes a certain sort, you know, like me… you’ve got to sweet talk ‘em a bit, you know invite ‘em back to the olds for dinner, that sort of thing…”

Judy arrives with a drink for Gary: “You bragging about your conquests again Brian?”

Brian: “G’day Mrs. Mac.”

Judy: “You know if you’d spent more time with Debbie instead of spinning tales of your amorous exploits with the boys, you’d probably still be together.”

Gary (chortles): “Ah suck shit, huh?”

Judy: “Oh I wouldn’t be too smug if I were you Gary …you and Wendy are just about finished from what I’ve heard.”

Brian chortles, Gary says a glum “yeah.”

Judy: “Yeah … you could always try apologising you know …”

Gary: “Thanks for the lecture.”

Brian gives Gary a playful shove and Gary grabs his beanie and gives it a punt as Judy heads over to deal with an arriving tanker.

Gary and Noel note the tension, and then Gary is driving along to more loud punk music.

He arrives at Wendy Roberts’ workplace, only to be told she’s gone home.

Noel starts spending his slow moments working out how much the hairdresser across the road is making, then tells Steve they couldn’t be making more than a hundred bucks a day …

Steve wonders what he’s on about, and Noel speculates it might be a Mafia front or an illegal gambling house. Steve looks at his figuring, shakes his head:

“Unbelievable … you ought to give it a break … you know relax, take it easy, read a book, take the dog for a walk …the things normal people do …”

Noel: “You can talk!”

Noel returns to the business of the tanker but Steve tells him not to worry. 

Noel says the finance company called, asking Steve if he went guarantor for Gary.

Steve: “Who else is going to help the poor bastard out?”

But it’s not for his current bomb, it was for a good one, a vehicle the ‘bloody idiot’ wrote off …

Noel: “Do you reckon he’ll stick it out?”

Steve: “Who, Gary? Hmph, what else is he gunna do? Nah, he’s over half way through now …”

Noel: “Exactly! Well look at this calendar. You’d be fucked if he left.”

Steve: “You got out, didn’t ya?”

Noel: “I wouldn’t have been any good as a mechanic.”

Steve: “Oh bullshit. You just had to go your own way …wasn’t any future in it, hey?”

Noel: “Look where it got me …”

Steve: “What? Bloody flash car, fancy bit of real estate in South Yarra …investments, lurks and perks.”

Noel: “Goin’ bald …premature old age …divorce.”

Steve: “Yeah well you had that one comin’, didn’t ya?”

Noel: “Ohh, nice one …”

Steve: “Oh, I’m sorry Noel. But it didn’t exactly come as a surprise.”

Noel: “Suppose you all had money on it over here… what’s Jude think?”

Steve: “What, about your divorce?”

Noel: “Noh! Gary, the business!”

Steve (snatching a tool away from him): “Ah, she’s got big ideas too. But it doesn’t help me get the work done, does it?”

Noel: “If I were you, I’d give it some thought.”

Steve: “I don’t need your charity. Not today anyway.”

Noel: “I’d hate to see you lose Gary. I’d have to pick up the trade again.”

Steve: “Look stop hassling me and if you’re so worried about him, you can go and pick him up yourself …” (tossing Noel his car keys).

Noel: “You want me to drive that thing?” (pointing to Gary’s hoonmobile)

Steve: “Yeah, go on, do you good, bring back a few memories, eh …” 

Noel revs the car, stalls it, revs it, says “I’ll get you back later,” and drives off.

Cut to Noel crashing the hoonmobile over a roundabout, and Gary saying Jesus, and Noel blaming the stupid accelerator, and Gary saying he’s surprised he didn’t take the sump off as well.

Outside a bowling club they’re re-attaching the exhaust pipe, with Gary saying he's glad Noel didn’t become a mechanic, they’d be broke by now.

He slides under the car with Noel laughing, as Noel complains about metric spanners. 

“Like this, gramps,” says Gary.

Night, and Gary pulls up outside the garage where Steve’s working.

Gary: “Old Uncle Steve, still hard at it.”

Noel: “Do you reckon he’ll stick it out?”

Gary: “Oh I don’t know Noel. I don’t really know what I think at the moment.”

Noel: “Yeah …I know it’s not easy …but I’ll tell you something for free. Don’t race off on your own too soon …”

Gary (wry laugh): “Funny you know, I thought you were going to be just like him.”

Noel (wry laugh): “Not me. Old slow and steady wins the race.”

Gary (laughs): “Yeah … gives ya the shits doesn’t it?”

Noel: “Drove me mad in the end …” (shaking his head as Dvorak returns and we see shots of Adelaide).

More shots of life around the closed servo, and kids in the back yard playing with hose and dog, and Judy pleased to see Steve relaxing for once. 

Judy: “… Steve, the eternal optimist.”

Noel: “Yeah, I remember. What about you?”

Judy: “Me? Just wish Steve’d get another mechanic. He’s tiring himself out …and Gary …”

Cut to Gary, meeting Wendy (Rachel Rains) in the car park at her work.

He wants to talk to her about the new job Brian told him about, but she says there’s more important things for them to work out before he goes and quits his job.

But when he says he still likes her and all and this is stupid, she gives him a peck on the cheek and says sorry, she’s got to go, leaving Gary slumped over a supermarket trolley in the desolate car park.

Cut to a seaside fun fair, with Noel walking through it.

A busker (Joe Camilleri) is strumming a guitar, and Noel chats with him about playing a song. The busker has a go at “So Young”, and then they chat about a water slide.

Ugly, isn’t it, says the busker, as he starts singing “Ain’t Nobody,” a little ditty he’s been throwing around a bit. “Pretty little tune… it’s going to be good when it’s finished.”

Noel suggests releasing an album. One of these days, man, sighs the busker, as Gary wanders away and the busker keeps the song running, cueing a montage of more Adelaide sights at dusk.

Noel sees his initials carved in a jetty railing … and strokes the wood as boys jump off the jetty into the water.

Night, and Noel is in the car with family, the kids and Judy asleep in the back.

Steve jokes he shouldn’t have had the second serve of bread and butter pudding, as Noel notes that dad was in vintage form.

Steve: “Yeah, well, he doesn’t have to be polite now … now it’s finished with Lynne …(chuckling) … I think he had his eye on a couple more grandkids …(chuckling) … you had to knock him out before he’d let ya go …”

Noel: “I’m not proud of that, ya know.”

Steve: “What, knocking him out? Best thing ya ever did …wish I’d done it …”

Noel: “Nah, nah, my work … it’s not that brilliant ya know …”

Steve: “Ah yer right, you wouldn’t have made it as a mechanic …”

(as the car slides to a halt)

Noel: “You shouldn’t have sold the old beast.”

Steve: “Standing quarter, twelve and a half.”

Noel: “Rubber in first, second and third.”

(they smile and chuckle and the car starts moving again)

Steve (deep sigh): “And now I drive a Commodore.”

Noel: “Yeah … with air conditioning.”

Steve: “Hmph …yeah …”

Cut to the family swimming underwater at the beach, and Noel and Gary and Brian playing with the kids, the Brighton Esplanade Hotel up the road.

Steve announces fish and chips and races the ball into the water.

Brian reminds Gary his girlfriend’s given him the arse, and as Brian wanders off, Noel asks him what happened, as they hoe into Woodroofe’s Lemonade.

Gary: “Ah, I stuffed up an arrangement, wasn’t the first time either…”

Noel: “Hmmm, did you do anything about it?”

Gary: “Meh …”

Noel: “Do you like her?”

Gary: “Yeah! Yeah!”

Noel: “Well, that’s a start …” 

Gary: “But what do you really do at work?”

Noel: “Beats me …work for anonymous people, nameless companies …nah, we do insurance cover for anyone, for anything …car manufacturers, catering firms, entertainment industry, stuff like that …it’s pretty interesting, once you get into it …I enjoy it.”

Gary (dubious): “Yeah? Huh, must be funny doing all that stuff ...”

Noel: “Nah …easy as pie. Bullshit baffles brains … (Gary laughs) … but you never know where all the bullshit goes. I mean, you think you know, but just more speculation, more name-dropping, more dirt to dig up …you reassure the client that they are the most important person in the world. Seeing is believing. Believe in what you’re selling. An image of confidence and security. Image, timing, emphasis, impact … straight down the tube…here’s to the old school tie …” (as he takes a swig of lemonade).

Gary: “You’re weird … (Noel nods his agreement) … how do you reckon I’d go in this insurance game?”

Noel: “Oh, you’d be okay …you couldn’t be any worse than me as a mechanic …”

Gary: “Ah you’d be alright …”

Noel: “Yeah?”

Gary: “Yeah. I mean you need the right tips … leave it up to me …”

Noel: “You’d take me under your wing, would you?”

Gary: “Ya never know …do an honest day’s work …” (they clink lemonade cans and sip).

Cut to the servo at night, and Noel telling Steve that Gary’s all right, and Steve saying he’s a good kid, used to deliver the papers around there …

Noel remembers and Steve says he was a real little pest back then, but he’s turned out alright …

Noel: “Do ya ever tell him?”

Steve: “Get out. I don’t want him to get too cocky.”

Noel: “Well don’t follow in you know who’s footsteps. A little bit of encouragement goes a long way.”

Steve: “There you go again, showing your true colours, ya smart arse. Nah, Gary’s getting good training, and he knows it …”

They joke about penalty rates on a Sunday night, and Steve reveals he mortgaged the house to update the workshop, explaining that there’s a lot of things little Noely doesn’t know, while thanking him for helping out.

Noel says he’s got an extension to his holiday, and Steve wishes he could get a few of them.

Noel starts reviewing the books with a calculator, as inside the servo Gary loses his cool and starts hammering away at an engine. Steve grabs his arm.

Steve: “Taking it out on the car won’t sort out your problems you know. Now I don’t want the car damaged, alright!”

Gary (angry): “Well the spanners in this place are too ancient!” 

Steve: “That just about sums up your whole attitude, doesn’t it? Look, I don’t understand how somebody can do so much good work and let a simple thing like this get ‘em so upset. Now I’ve told you before, you take ya time … It’s obvious if ya just sit back and think … it’s not this, how about that? Doesn’t fit, there’s a reason! Look at your spanner! Metric!”

(He walks off shaking his head):

Gary: “Gives me the shits the way you’re always so right …you know, you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be in my shoes mate, it’s not always so easy to see the right ways and the wrong ways … well fuck you I’ve got a right to be pissed off …” (hurling a spanner away and storming off across the street).

Gary is sitting by himself, watching as developers plan to tear up an area of land. Noel comes up and sits alongside him, and then they’re tearing along a seaside road, listening to punk music, until Gary slips a cassette into the car and plays some classical music. Immediately replaced by punk again …

Night, and more classical music, and now Gary and Noel are coming up to the Cowley pie cart for an Adelaide classic, a pie floater. 

The pieman (Michael Evans) pours thick pea soup over a pie and serves it in a bowl, while joking about mass anarchy and everybody taking a holiday on the beach.

Noel defensively explains to the pieman that, while from Melbourne, he was born in Adelaide.

Noel: “Just a big overgrown country town, isn’t it?”

Gary: “Ah come on, don’t get sentimental on me now gramps…anyway you’re going back soon aren’t ya?”

Noel (shaking his head ‘no’): “Slackin’ off.”

Gary: “Ohh, good job. Wish I could slack off. Bloody Steve… I tell you what, I’ve got a good mind to take that job …”

A 327 (motor) interrupts him as the pieman hears it roar up Pirie street, pursued by cops, sirens wailing.

"Be lucky if they catch a 327," jokes Gary.

Pieman: “Eat that properly please.”

Gary (chuckling): “Whattdaya mean? … smartarse …”

Classical music, as Noel lies awake in bed, listening to the Dvorak.

Next day Gary’s punching the heavy bag as the Dvorak continues.

Judy puts the phone down, unhappy, and looks across the street at the video hire place doing great business. She tells Steve they should turn the workshop into a video store. He says they’re doing okay. “Only just,” says Judy, pointing to the figures saying they’re still down on last year.

Steve: “We’ll pick up. I can’t work any harder than I already am.”

Judy: “Yeah, I know… what about changing over to self-serve pumps? (Steve grimaces) … look, sooner or later, we’ll have to think about it …Wilsons just closed down and Rileys last year …”

Steve: “Look we turn over good business…”

Judy: “They don’t care about our good business Steve. If the petrol prices on the highway keep dropping, we could be in trouble.”

Steve: “Yeah, I know, I know. I’ve been thinking about it …just haven’t got any answers, that’s all …”

Judy: “Well, you’d better keep thinking …”

Gary is at the newsagents, looking at magazines. He emerges with a BRW magazine, as the newsagent jokes that if all the top 50 profit makers on the cover stopped there, he could retire.

Gary tells him not to think about it too hard and the newsagent says a man can dream.

Gary peers into the hairdressing salon, and then an empty store, and then sees Gail passing by.

They shake hands, and talk. She’s pleased he thought about home and is back. Her brother went up to Ceduna a few years back and she hasn’t seen him since.

They go into old flames. He explains he’s divorced from Lynne, she left Bob and is living with a guy she dragged back from Germany. She suggests drinks to talk over old times, says he’s looking well, shakes hands and walks away …

Later, Gary’s coaching Noel on working on a foreign car, then does a little rant about his car - built like a tank, for mechanics to retire on …

“Now these little buzzboxes …these things are the things that keep us in business, you know …I mean, these were designed to bugger up …there is nothing, I repeat, nothing, which can’t go wrong with these, and spare parts …(he whistles) …and they’re designed for mechanics with shrunken hands, you know …because I can’t get anywhere around this motor, without having to pull the whole bloody thing off first …as for this (he holds up the manual)… may as well be written in Japanese.”

Steve (interrupting): “Hey Sunshine …”

Steve brings in a hire purchase man (Rory Walker) who tries to harass Gary into signing a new document.

Noel intervenes and sends the man packing …telling him to come back when he’s done his homework and can produce the original agreement.

Noel explains he once did some research on HP for a friend, who instead decided to go into a franchise agreement.

Steve: “Yeah, they wanted us to get into one of those franchise things. One of those little mini-market, sort of ‘you want it, we got it’ shops right here in the servo.”

Noel: “Oh you should go for it…they’re expanding really fast, you’d do well.”

Steve: “Ah I don’t want to sell chocolate bars and kitchen knives and all that shit.”

Noel: “That’s the trend now.”

Steve: “Well it’s fucked. You’re not a proper servo, you’re not a proper shop. I mean, you don’t send your car to the green grocer to get it fixed up, do ya?”

Noel: “Oh that’s stupid. I mean, what’s the point in being stubborn, if Joe Blow up the road gets in first and puts you out of business?”

Steve: “I suppose this franchise is one of your brain storm areas, is it?”

Noel: “It’s not my idea, it’s been around in the States for years. It’s called progress …”

Steve: “Yeah?”

Noel: “Yeah!” 

Steve: “Well this is Mitchell Park South Australia, not the fucking States …and I run a servo, not a fucking variety store …!”

Steve walks away, leaving Gary and Noel to look at each other.

Night, and the fun fair and Gary and Noel walking together.

Gary fancies himself as some cricketer, and then starts talking about 12 and a half.

Noel starts reminiscing about the old beast, which Steve sold to a surfie who wouldn’t know the arse-end of a six from its head.

“The guy put roof racks on it!!”

Gary (groaning): “Oh God…I would have bought it ...”

Noel says that’s when he decided to move away.

Gary says he hasn’t seen Steve like he was today.

Noel: “You know what really shits me?”

Gary: “What?”

Noel: “He’s right…it is fucked that he has to change the way he runs his business, just to keep up …I’m the one who said all that, what would I know?”

Gary (with a sigh): “Yeah, he works real hard.”

Noel: “No justice, eh?”

Gary: “You know, I was just thinking, he should go back to building hotties again, you know, ‘cause all he ever does now is fix other people’s cars, it’s no good …” 

Noel: “Nah, can’t make a living out of fixing old cars anymore …oh back then, car parts were cheap, petrol was fifty cents a gallon, you could travel all over …nuh, it’s not the same anymore … ”

Gary (laughing): “Well listen to the old man, huh, old man McKenzie …jeez, mate, what would you have thought ten years ago if you could’a heard what you just said then, huh? Huh, you probably woulda rolled over and died, I reckon …”

Noel: “Yeah … well I’d like to see you in ten years …”

Gary takes a breath …

Cut to magpies and Dvorak and Noel looking out the window at the back yard.

He picks up a telegram from Barry saying he’s urgently needed at the office, Sanderson’s gone AWOL.

Noel writes out a note and leaves it behind, saying “They’ve caught up with me at last! I’ve gone to the airport, say bye to Gary and the kid, for me. Love Noel”.

Cut to the kids playing cricket in the back yard as Judy watches.

As Steve reads the note, Judy says “he’ll be back.”

Steve: “Yeah well, at least we don’t have to answer to anyone, eh? (she looks at him) … yeah, right, who am I trying to kid?”

Cut to Noel in his Melbourne office working away with the usual business, and his model grunt car still on the desk.

Cut to Steve working on a wheel as a car pulls up.

It’s a tattooed guy, Spanner (Max Miller).

Steve (as he pumps petrol): “G’day, Spanner, where’s your flathead? Look like a fucking hippie.”

Spanner notices the new hoist, and jokes about Steve making a few quid, as Steve asks if he’s still running the 351 and Spanner says he’s getting too old for it. It’s just a stocky big block now. “Sure beats driving a Commodore, eh?”

Steve: “Yeah, well we’ve all got to grow up some time haven’t we?”

Spanner: “Mate, they’ll bury me in this car.”

Spanner pays up and leaves with a parting shot: “No burn outs in the Commodore, okay?”

Back at work, Steve blows wheel dust into his eyes and complains to Judy about getting a decent air compressor. She tells him it’ll have to wait. She can go for a couple of hundred overdraft but not this.

Gary returns with lunch, and overhears the conversation, as Judy asks Steve if he’s going to get another mechanic and he says Gary’s better than the mob of morons they get through there …

Judy: “Yeah, well we’re going to lose him too if you’re not too careful.”

Later, Gary’s working on a car, and this time Steve tells him to apply whatever he thinks is the right pressure, and offers to throw away the car manual bullshit. Gary laughs …

Steve hears a car and goes out.

“Another day, another dollar,” says Steve, as Gary asks him if he really pulled 12 and a half on the old quarter strip.

Steve: “Bloody Noel. You’d reckon we were touring car champions. Ah he’s forgotten what a bore it all got to be …just hanging about waiting for that one to go a little bit faster …”

Gary: “Yeah, well that’s real deep Steve, but did you or didn’t ya?” 

And then Steve boasts they pulled twelve and a quarter.

“Nothing could touch us.”

Gary: “Mmm, shame it still ain’t around …”

Steve: “Ah, it’s a mug’s game. You’re better off being a surfie.”

Gary: “Hah! Nah, no style.”

They laugh together, then Gary steps outside and asks back:

Gary: “What’s gunna happen to the servo?”

Steve: “Hey!? Nothin’, I hope …”

(joining Gary)

Gary: “I heard you and Jude talkin’, I thought maybe youse was gunna chuck it in.”

Steve: “Nah. No, we’re still providin’ a service people want …we’re not broke …not yet anyway … even if we can’t afford a decent bloody air compressor …no, I like it here, how about you?”

Gary: “Oh shit yeah…yeah, don’t worry about that …I’m behind you all the way …not that that’s worth much to you …but if there’s anything I can do, you know ...”

Steve: “Well (deep sigh) …this time next year, you’ll be nearly finished. I was thinking … be good … if you could stick around …”

Gary: “Yeah?!”

Steve (nodding): “Yeah! Ah you don’t take all that carry on of mine too seriously, do ya? No, you’ve got the right touch …even if you can’t afford to pay your bloody bills on time…”

Gary chuckles …as Steve tchs …

Gary: “Have you thought about that franchise thing that Noel was talking about?”

Steve: “Ohh … see, I don’t wanta make a killing. I don’t care about being on top. I’m happy just to stay in business …”

Gary: “He doesn’t think we’ll last, does he? …”

Steve sighs deeply.

Cut to Gary driving on Military Road, punkish music blaring on the radio … as he pulls up outside Wendy’s house.

Wendy’s worn mum Mrs Roberts goes to see if Wendy wants to see him (Liz Windsor is credited as Mrs Walker. There’s no Mrs Walker identified in the film, and no cast credit for a Mrs Roberts).

Wendy emerges, and makes a feeble excuse about driving past - she jokes about him having a shave and putting on Brut 33 three hours after knock off time.

After a serious chat, Gary apologises, and they make up. He persuades her to go to a drive-in, just to find somewhere to talk, though she says she couldn’t stand being stuck in a car all night with him smelling like that. When he confesses it’s one of his dad’s, she says it doesn’t suit him, she likes the smell of petrol better.

They have a tentative kiss and she goes to get her things.

Back with Steve, working on the accounts, and telling Judy that Noel has rung up out of the blue telling him about some servo he’s seen up in Keswick:

“Reckons a few small adjustments to the battery franchise and we can up turnover by fifteen per cent. Great in theory Noel.”

Judy: “At least somebody’s thinking about it.”

Steve: “Hey, I’m on the case too ya know …maybe we could look at goin’ self serve on two pumps, like we discussed …”

Judy: “Great… what about Noel’s idea? (no response) … you miss him, eh? … (another pause) … so what about that freehold site in nullah (upper?) Woop Woop?”

Steve: “That’s option 237B.”

They smile at each other.

Melbourne and oppressive bland high rise offices, with Noel seen through a window talking on the telephone …

Cut to a disco, and Gary dancing with Wendy …

Outside in the night air, Gary asks her if it’s the guy in the Mazda … flash car…flash suit …works in a bank …he seemed pretty keen.

Wendy (indignant): “thanks …what do you care about what he thinks? What about what I think? You’re paranoid you know. This is something special isn’t it? That’s what you just said?”

Gary: “Yeah of course it is.”

Wendy: “Well how come you’re so cool about it when we’re together?”

Gary: “Yeah … okay. I just act that way.”

Wendy: “Look, how can I like someone like that? Nah, you’ll do for the time being …”

She leans in, he says he loves her, and they kiss.

Day, cut to the dog in the backyard, and then to the servo and the paper boy.

Steve and Gary are working on a motor as Steve realises Australia Day’s coming up and they’ve got jobs to finish.

A car pulls up at the pump. Judy smiles. It’s Noel.

Steve emerges and spots him.

Noel (walking up): “I’m back.”

Steve: “Welcome home.”

They shake hands and hug.

Gary’s supervising Wally stomping a foot imprint in wet cement already carrying the initials G. W. 4 W. R.

Gary looks across and smiles across to see Noel …

He piggybacks Wally back towards the servo as the camera cranes up high to look over the scene.

The camera swings around towards the sea as the Dvorak surges on the soundtrack …

Shots of the jetty … kids jumping off in the dusk light, people fishing, and a final shot of Neal’s initials engraved on the jetty railing …

The music swells, cut to black and end titles roll as the Dvorak keeps playing ...