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Phobia Movie Review

dingwall scully john sean

Phobia, John Dingwall's riveting movie from Australia, is a good bet for inclusion in a list of the 10 best first films ever made. The film stars Polish actress Gosia Dobrowolska as Renate Simmons, whose naked face reveals her progressive recognition of the depth of her agoraphobia. This paralyzing fear of open spaces thwarts her efforts to heal herself at every turn. Renate's husband and “phobic companion” is played by Sean Scully, whose multi-layered performance as Bob won him an Australian Academy Award nomination. Scully starred in the Walt Disney classics The Prince and the Pauper, Almost Angels, and The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh between 1962 and 1964 and also in 1981's Sara Dane. Scully has surpassed his early promise and now, with his preternatural knack for zooming in on the heart of sexual frustration, he has the potential to become one of the leading actors of his generation. (Grown-ups may not have been aware of the underlying sexual tension in Scully's juvenile work, but pre-teen girls certainly were!) Dingwall's Phobia script is a dizzying blend of terror and comedy, of love and loathing, of compassion and scrutiny. To suggest both the brighter days and the gradual disintegration of this tortured couple, the director uses the effective device of old home videotapes, Bob's obsessive preoccupation. Dingwall also makes marvelous use of his own suburban home in Newport, New South Wales, although one hopes that the place is more fun for him to live in than this searing film suggests.

1988 85m/C AU Sean Scully, Gosia Dobrowolska; D: John Dingwall; W: John Dingwall. VHS

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