An intimate journey of grief and loss as three siblings navigate their emotions in differing ways upon returning home to their mother in her final hours.
Vianne, a feisty, almost seventy-year-old, has received a terminal cancer diagnosis and is determined to die at her home in regional Victoria. Her oldest child Connie, a detached and somewhat hard-headed individual has made the decision to be her mother’s sole, end-of-life carer. The two younger children, Quinn and Amal, both come to keep vigil as Vianne’s passing looms.
Each child has a different way of grieving – each approach shaped by their individual circumstances and their courage or desire to confront the truth. For Connie, denial and pragmatism allow her to hold grief at arms length. Quinn, a single gay father to Lachie is more of a quiet observer – who possesses an emotional maturity and innate ability to hold space for his mother so she can express her fears, reservations and beliefs. Spirited and passionate Amal, adopted from Sri Lanka as a baby, is the last to arrive at his mother’s bedside. The feelings of abandonment he holds for his birthmother suddenly begin to intermingle with the imminent loss of the woman who brought him up as her own. He desperately tries to reconcile his own sense of cultural identity and his place as a brown man who was raised in a white, Western world.
As Vianne tackles her impending death with humour and humility, the onus falls on each child to face the inevitable and choose presence and peace, or let this milestone moment pass them by.
The film is broken into 3 parts with the same series of events around Vianne’s passing seen three times over but from a differing point of view, each one through the lens of the children and their contrasting grief journeys. Within these character points of view we will be utilising different camera and filming techniques to capture the essence of each journey. Quinn’s grief is healthy and fully expressed, so a smooth, mercurial, and handheld technique will tell his story. For Connie, whose journey is one of absent grief and denial, the creative feel will be still and stagnant frames. And for Amal’s complex grief journey, we will explore the use of dolly zoom (or the vertigo effect), which gives a sense of the character feeling ungrounded and disconnected.
Australian Cultural Fund Campaign
We are using the Australian Cultural Fund in to raise part of our funding for our shoot, which lets donors make a tax free donation. ACF was established by the governments to help artists achieve their goals in a legitimate and respectful way.
Link to campaign: https://artists.australianculturalfund.org.au/the-returned
Directed and written by Ben Pfeiffer
Ben is a born storyteller whose focus has always been on the human, heartfelt component and connection within each creation. His work is always about the delicacy of the human experience, with a hope that audiences can walk away feeling seen, changed or closer to their fellow person.
Ben graduated from Melbourne’s VCA Drama School in 2007 with a Bachelor of Dramatic Art. Since graduating, Ben has worked with prestigious companies such as the MTC, the Malthouse Theatre and The Arts Centre. Ben has worked on projects with Warner Bros Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and the SYFY Network, USA. Ben holds 15 directorial credits and is a seven-time award-winning screenwriter.
Cast and Crew
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Directorial and writing reviews
"Director Ben Pfeiffer’s vision is impeccable" - Theatre People
"Ben Pfeiffer's production is outstanding - informed by something approaching the visionary" - Artshub
"Pfeiffer creates a startling mis en scene" - Stage Whipsers
"Every detail of Ben Pfeiffer’s production is thought out, exact and cleanly delivered" - The Austalian
"Pfeiffer, yet again, proves his versatility as a director" - The Australian
"The writer shows a great aptitude for non-verbal storytelling. Multiple times throughout this script I was impressed with how much tension and emotion the writer could impart through the action description alone. The writer has a great instinct for knowing when to draw attention to a moment or object, pacing individual scenes well to maximize the emotional beat. They do this with short, concise sentences and very precise language. It imparts the information in novel ways, but doesn’t overstay its welcome with overly flowery language or lengthy blocks of text. There really are no throwaway lines here, as the writer is incredibly efficient with the page space. Each line is crammed with information that paints a vivid description of the plot. Definitely a strength of the script.
Still the character work found here was a highlight of the script as well. There’s a high level of distinction to each character. They speak in their own voices, and none feel as if they’re being used as a writer’s tool to expedite the plot. Exposition is masked behind interesting personalities, and dialogue is always properly motivated by a character’s background and personality. This makes the script feel like it has a truly authentic voice" - Blacklist