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Radha Mitchell: Back for female-led Looking for Grace

Actor Radha Mitchell returns to her homeland for her first Australian film in half a decade with Looking for Grace.

Radha Mitchell in Looking for Grace/Jane Bennett

When Radha Mitchell looks back on her experience making Looking for Grace, there’s something that stands out.

The amount of women who created it.

“It was all a bunch of ladies really making the movie, which is unusual I guess and it creates a really cool vibe,” Mitchell says.

Apart from writer/director Sue Brooks (Japanese Story), Katie Milwright was director of photography, Elizabeth Drake composed the soundtrack, Terri Lamera created the costumes, and Alison Tilson, Sue Taylor and Lizzette Atkins produced. Meanwhile up-and-coming actor Odessa Young plays Grace and Mitchell stars as her houseproud mother, Denise.

But rather than it being a purposeful choice to have so many women on board, it just happened that way.

“It was incidental and great obviously,” Mitchell says, particularly during a time when the inequality in the screen industry is so apparent (Screen Australia has recently announced its own suite of initiatives to combat the problem).

“So I think it’s an inspiring film, especially in this context and the conversation about women not being represented. If you’re a young filmmaker to know Katie shot the movie and that Sue (Brooks) does what she loves, it’s inspiring.”

Not only that, but when Looking for Grace was selected to screen at Venice Film Festival, Brooks became the first Australian woman director to have a film in official competition at Venice Film Festival in 15 years.

The vital need for women in the industry was noticeable to Mitchell while judging at the Tribeca Film Festival one year, where she needed to watch a vast number of movies over several days.

“You realise how important it is that there’s diversity in the perspectives reflected … because it’s so boring when it’s just the same story over and over and over and over again,” she says.

“You are affected by what you see and how you’re represented, even if it’s in an unconscious, subliminal way, it just affects the way people think about themselves.”

When Mitchell first read the screenplay for Looking for Grace, she immediately fell in love with it, adding that the opportunity to return to Australia was a bonus.

As the title suggests, after teenager Grace (Odessa Young) runs away to a music festival and goes missing, her parents (Mitchell and Richard Roxburgh) set out to find her with the help of an ageing investigator (Terry Norris).

Mitchell says at first the film feels like it might be building towards finding out what happened to this runaway teenager.

“But it’s not a mystery like that,” she says. “The build is really learning about how we impact each other’s lives in unexpected ways.”

Told in a fragmented way through the perspectives of the different characters, secrets are slowly revealed and their tales intersect to create a complete picture.

Mitchell says often you come across predictable scripts that drive a very familiar plot path, meaning that by page ‘x’ a certain beat needs to have been hit, before another at page ‘y’.

“There are elements that engage people’s attention that are fairly standard and I think what Sue did here was something more poetic and not literal. It opened up the idea of what a story can be and didn’t try to tie it up with a clear resolution.”

Because of the various perspectives, Mitchell says you also get different reviews of the film depending on the age of the audience.

“It’s the kind of movie where you can take your grandma or grandpa or a teenager – everybody’s got a different connection to the stories,” she says.

“Someone told me they took they took their teenage son and he was really into the daughter’s story, while she personally thought it was about the mother, Denise. And I’m sure if you took your grandma she would think it was about someone else.”

Looking for Grace is out now. Visit palacefilms.com.au for more information