The Waiting City (2010)

The Waiting City
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Mature themes and coarse language

Director: Claire Mccarthy
Actors: Joel Edgerton, Radha Mitchell, Isabel Lucas, Samrat Chakrabarti, Tillotama Shome

The waiting city tells the story of an outwardly happy Australian couple who journey to India to collect their adopted baby. When they arrive in Kolkata they discover that the adoption arrangements have still to be finalised. Soon the intoxicating mystic power of the city pulls them in separate and unexpected directions and the vulnerability of their marriage begins to reveal itself. The first Australian feature film to be shot entirely in India, The waiting city is an intimate, complex love story of transformation, set against the exhilarating epic backdrop of Calcutta.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 103mins
Origin: AUSTRALIA
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio Formats: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
Sitting, waiting, wishing
by Simon Miraudo,

In case you didn’t already know, Asia is totally the new Europe. You can attribute that to the glut of movies repainting each and every corner of the continent as a glorious new tourist destination. Slumdog Millionaire turned Mumbai’s widespread poverty into the backdrop for a modern fairytale. The Fast and the Furious boys took their hotted up automobiles to the streets of Tokyo. Even the Sex and the City gals ventured into Abu Dhabi (and consequently set back Eastern/Western relations by almost a hundred years). If Roman Holiday were made today, I suspect it would be renamed Ramallah Holiday. An American in Penang. National Lampoon’s Himalayan Adventure. Who knows? Maybe Woody Allen will venture to Asia once he’s tired of this whole European jaunt. Vicki Cristina Bandar Seri Begawan any...

In case you didn’t already know, Asia is totally the new Europe. You can attribute that to the glut of movies repainting each and every corner of the continent as a glorious new tourist destination. Slumdog Millionaire turned Mumbai’s widespread poverty into the backdrop for a modern fairytale. The Fast and the Furious boys took their hotted up automobiles to the streets of Tokyo. Even the Sex and the City gals ventured into Abu Dhabi (and consequently set back Eastern/Western relations by almost a hundred years). If Roman Holiday were made today, I suspect it would be renamed Ramallah Holiday. An American in Penang. National Lampoon’s Himalayan Adventure. Who knows? Maybe Woody Allen will venture to Asia once he’s tired of this whole European jaunt. Vicki Cristina Bandar Seri Begawan anyone?

Obviously, I’m joking. But only half joking. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the sexualisation of Asia, particularly the poverty-stricken areas, in western cinema (and forgive me for using the similarly lazy and dismissive term ‘western’). At its worst, you have Sex and the City 2. Even at its very best, the films can come across as somewhat exploitative. Not so with Claire McCarthy’s The Waiting City, a sumptuously photographed and fully realised emotional journey into the heart of India. It recalls both Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation and Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited (two films that I personally adore, but yes, are criticised for their orientalism). It similarly features lost characters searching for meaning and a cure to their existential angst in a mysterious new land. The difference? It features genuine characters outside of our Caucasian protagonists, and dares to suggest, “Hey, maybe these white people don’t deserve to look down upon all Asian people? And perhaps their deeply ingrained psychological issues can’t be cured by some hocus-pocus Eastern mysticism?”

Joel Edgerton and Radha Mitchell star as Ben and Fiona Simmons, an affluent Australian couple who head to Calcutta to pick up their newly-adopted daughter Lakshmi. Although both seem genuinely excited about inviting a new life into their family, Fiona approaches the trip the way someone would approach having to pick up a package from the post office: excited for the parcel, but annoyed to have been inconvenienced by the trip. She’s a lawyer, and has no choice but to take her work with her on their voyage. Ben, a formerly successful musician, is content to tell Fiona to loosen up, and spends all his time strumming generic Jack Johnson-esque pop-folk songs on his guitar. At first, Ben and Fiona come across as d-bags of the highest degree.

As a reviewer who has endless patience for Wes Anderson’s similarly self-involved characters, I was concerned that I would quickly tire of Ben and Fiona’s antics. But something happens. No, they don’t undergo an instant epiphany that changes them into better people. As the film goes on, and as the couple are told by Lakshmi’s case worker they will have to wait a few weeks before they can see their daughter, the full dimensions of their personalities are revealed. And to the credit of writer/director McCarthy and the performances of Edgerton and Mitchell, these are fully-realised characters. The subtleties of their relationship are slowly unveiled; their fragility is tested time and time again. Both characters – particularly Fiona – are completely broken down and rebuilt during their time in India. Whether it’ll keep is a different question. But the people we meet at the beginning of the film are not the same as ones we farewell at the end.

Edgerton and Mitchell are aided by two stellar supporting performances. Samrat Charkrabarti plays their driver Krishna, and although he flirts with playing the character as both pitiable and pious, he reveals a stubbornness that is both unexpected and appreciated. Compare that to the slaves (yes, they’re slaves) in Sex and the City 2 (and I’ll keep referencing that movie in a derogatory manner until it stops being racist). Tillotama Shome also has a small but significant role as Sister Tessila, the young woman who raised Lakshmi from birth at the mission. As Fiona begins to question her worth as a mother, Shome’s Tessila provides some worthwhile perspective. That being said, Isabel Lucas’ inclusion as an Australian muso and former friend of Ben’s is totally unnecessary. Her character seems to have reached some sort of Indian enlightenment. She was more believable as a robot.

Much of the joy of The Waiting City comes from the slow unraveling of the characters relationships, as well as in the gorgeous cinematography of Denson Baker. Indeed, the film’s final third introduces a whole new element that I dare not even hint towards, lest I ruin it for the rest of you. The Waiting City is a joyous experience; full of life and love. It makes a trend – even one that begets Sex and the City 2 – worthwhile.

4/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (28)

Really like this movie. Very telling story and unfortunately happens in real life. As a mother I could not imagine what it would be like to go through all of that to have a child in my life and completely how driven I would be to make it happen.
Posted Wednesday, 16 April 2014 See my other reviews
Kaz
says
This is a powerful movie. A little slow in parts but a worthy Australian production.
Posted Monday, 7 April 2014 See my other reviews
I had high expectations of this film and was disappointed. India was beautifully captured but the relationship between the two leads lacked believable tension. The storyline was cliche as was the dialogue at times. The editing felt choppy and disconnected in parts. There were some moments of emotion however but not enough to make it an engaging movie to watch.
Posted Saturday, 20 July 2013 See my other reviews
alistair c
says
Very artistic movie and a wonderful journey through parts of India, but the two leads were so ugly together that the movie just didn't work emotionally. Worth a watch though as some reviewers thought it worked!
Posted Thursday, 20 June 2013 See my other reviews
Yuki
says
Great film, beautifully and authentically captures India, while the story unfolds slowly and with deliberation. I felt I could relate to the characters who loved one another but had drifted apart over the years. The way we hurt the ones we love the most, and how every relationship is tested at one time or another. The pain in this movie is what breaks down all the pretenses and brings the couple back to each other which is ultimately what this move is about. Finding one another again.
Posted Monday, 27 August 2012 See my other reviews
Youngsters
says
The story was a bit vague in parts. The production design was great.
Posted Sunday, 27 November 2011 See my other reviews
Kathleen
says
This was a movie that really really surprised me. I noticed that other reviews mention that it moves too slowly or 'goes nowhere' but that is far from the case. The main reason is that this movie is not made and presented in the traditional 'Hollywood' manner where there is dramatic music, the adoptive parents are seen as hero's who sweep in and save a child from appalling conditions in an Indian orphanage and then ride off into the sunset with their new instant family with seemingly little understanding of the culture they have taken the child from but a message that they will have a much better life than where they came from. This movie goes a lot deeper than that. It shows characters that have a real love for each other but have somehow lost their way, they are 2 years into a journey that seems to move so slowly but they are determined to meet their child and become a family. Their relationship is under strain, they are trying to juggle their usual normal lives and the process of adopting an Indian child. They immerse themselves in the culture and learn things about their own personalities, their relationship and their lives and they come out at the other end as more well-rounded people who have come to terms with what is really important in their relationship. The Indian orphanages arent painted as horrible places lacking love and caring and you get a real sense of how they were feeling on their visits to see their adopted child. If you are looking for that Hollywood type movie where they solve all of the issues, pass on a valuable moral message and then have the movie end on a fairytale note after a dramatic final scene where there are delays and a struggle that you are sure they will never find a way out of but then they do, this is not the movie for you, but if you're looking for something that is more real and has more feeling then you will enjoy this movie. Great Australian actors playing great characters and it really shows what we are capable of producing in this country. I don't normally get excited over movies but I really loved this one!
Posted Sunday, 20 November 2011 See my other reviews
Sharron
says
What a fantastic Aussie movie I loved it
Posted Wednesday, 9 November 2011 See my other reviews
Nigel W
says
A childless Aussie couple go to India to adopt a child. A colourful drama that, given the subject matter, could have been mawkish and manipulative. However it avoids these pitfalls and develops into an involving human drama that doesn’t succumb to predictable outcomes.
Posted Sunday, 6 November 2011 See my other reviews
Alex H
says
This film transports you into Calcutta where you don't see the street for people squashing against each olther. Among them are a young Australian couple looking to adopt a baby. Excellent filming and acting.
Posted Thursday, 3 November 2011 See my other reviews
Tanya
says
Quite boring and slow. Interesting premise but failed to deliver.
Posted Saturday, 1 October 2011 See my other reviews
Denise
says
I watched this movie for a glimpse of India and certainly got that. The couple who were adopting the baby argued throughout and put up with lots of waiting to see the baby that was to be theirs. This was reflected in the tempo, which enabled the viewer to feel the frustration that they were feeling. Although the couple were in love, this was being tested by the pressure of the adoption process that almost brought them to breaking point and it highlighted how they both coped differently with the pressure. I enjoyed the movie despite its slowness as for me this made the movie feel more real.
Posted Friday, 9 September 2011 See my other reviews
CAROL
says
Excellent
Posted Tuesday, 9 August 2011 See my other reviews
Vanessa
says
Fantastic
Posted Wednesday, 20 July 2011 See my other reviews
A Summers
says
This movie was really interesting although not typical of what we would choose to watch. It showed an interesting view of a relationship and how it can evolve given a foreign culture and the pressures faced by trying to adopt. It was better than we expected.
Posted Friday, 8 July 2011 See my other reviews
Chris
says
We thoroughly enjoyed this well acted, excellent movie.
Posted Wednesday, 29 June 2011 See my other reviews
Lori
says
Not a bad movie
Posted Thursday, 26 May 2011 See my other reviews
Andrea Fry
says
a beautifully filmed movie.
Posted Thursday, 19 May 2011 See my other reviews
JS
says
Sorry I could not give this more than one star. Too slow, I kept hoping it would get better but unfortunately it didn't.
Posted Tuesday, 12 April 2011 See my other reviews
Lynne Montague
says
Really enjoyed this movie, good pace, good story, something a bit different.
Posted Tuesday, 12 April 2011 See my other reviews
Anita L.
says
I thought I'd support an Aussie movie, but I found it a bit too long and boring. I resisted the temptation to fast forward. I just didn't feel the love between the married couple. The scenery in India is interesting, the movie definitely captured that. Not something I'd watch again.
Posted Friday, 1 April 2011 See my other reviews
rosie53
says
A very draaaawn out movie.Acting was not the best & I just couldn't see the point in the end. This subject was dear to our hearts many years ago & I thought it could have had a bit more 'guts' to it. I hate the fact the producers kept this very self indulgent couple arguing the whole way through. To me they should not have even been contemplating adopting in the first place. Absolutely hated it.
Posted Friday, 11 March 2011 See my other reviews
BrianM
says
A most enjoyable Aussie film set in India, that never got the release, the audiences or the acclaim it deserved.. Great acting from principals and supports. This film takes you to places that you do not expect to go. Very non-formulaic. "Making of" extra featurette is interesting also. Three and a half stars.
Posted Tuesday, 1 March 2011 See my other reviews
William C
says
Taut drama that makes the most of its Indian setting
Posted Tuesday, 15 February 2011 See my other reviews
C
says
Interesting topic that was competently handled (although it had a few cliches).
Posted Sunday, 13 February 2011 See my other reviews
Stephen
says
Good idea for a story but spoilt by overacting and clumsy dialogue. Despite the interesting focus on Indian culture I found myself "waiting" for it to finish. Not really recommended.
Posted Saturday, 8 January 2011 See my other reviews
Neri
says
The concept was good, but in reality this movie was very long and boring, ended up fast forwarding in the hope that it would get better, which it did not.
Posted Saturday, 18 December 2010 See my other reviews
Marg
says
Although these characters were on such an emotional journey, I didn't feel that emotion come through on the screen unfortunately. Should have been heartbreaking to watch but didn't quite hit the mark.
Posted Monday, 29 November 2010 See my other reviews
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