Here’s the set-up: Angela (former Heartbreak High star Lara Cox) has decided to kill herself and is planning on taking her boyfriend Joel (Ben Seton) with her because she fears she is losing him. She then arranges a final supper with a group of not-so close uni friends, intent on committing the deed at the end of the meal. The only person who knows Angela’s true intentions is her best friend Maddy (Jessica Turner), who secretly scores a placebo in place of the deadly heroin Angela wants to use. But Maddy’s plan ultimately fails, and tragedy results.
Although fictional, the inspiration for this Canberra-set indie thriller comes from a manslaughter case that happened in the Australian capital in 1997 in which a law student drugged her boyfriend, and then injected him with a lethal dose of heroin. The filmmakers have used that incident to construct a well-intentioned film about our moral duty of care: Just what would we do in such a situation?
Structured around the police interrogation of each guest as they are grilled over their complicity in Angela’s crime, the film looks more like a TV drama than fully developed feature, due mainly to the low budget.
In the face of this lack of funding however, The Dinner Party is true a labour of love, and this shows through the effective camerawork, careful editing and sombre score. Despite some ropey scenes (who picks through other people’s bathroom bins?), it’s – for the most part – well crafted, intelligently written and well acted – especially Cox as the disturbed Angela.
A menacing Aussie thriller that might be a little rough around the edges and lacking big budget chills, but certainly showcases emerging talent.