Don’t Tell

Published on May 15th, 2017

Don’t Tell

Directed by Tori Garrett

Staring Jack Thompson, Aden Young, Sara West, Jacqueline McKenzie, Rachel Griffiths, Susie Porter, Martin Sacks, Robert Coleby

Rating: ★★★★☆

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Ripped from the headlines of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the new Australian film Don’t Tell, directed by Tori Garrett and starring Jack Thompson, Aden Young, Jacqueline McKenzie, and Susie Porter, tells the story of a girl chasing justice after being the victim of a pedophile at the tender age of 12. Based on actual events that ultimately changed the child protection laws of Australia, Don’t Tell is told in a straightforward manner with no frills and little melodrama. The film doesn’t so much essay as pull open in equal parts the pain and suffering the victim endured and continued to endure and the legal wheels that threaten to steamroll right over the necessary justice.

 

Everywhere she looks she sees him. Even while she’s enduring meaningless sex it is his face she sees, towering over her. Her name is Lyndal. She drinks too much, smokes too much, and walks daily with anger and betrayal, weighing her down like a suit of armour. She has a diligent, empathic caseworker, and two parents who love her but are at a loss. Her father says little but her mother knows that deep down she failed her by not listening when it counted. Coming off a similar case that ended with his client taking her own life, lawyer Stephen Roche (the screenplay is based on his book) is at first resistant to take on another but after meeting Lyndal and sensing her strength to enter into the court proceedings that will mean going up against the powerful Anglican Church, he and barrister Bob Myers launch their case. With Lyndal now 22 years old and time running out to bring suit, Roche sets about lining up witnesses. It’s been ten years. How much evidence is there?

 

This is a fascinating film, sensitively directed, beautifully acted, and expertly aimed right at the heart of the matter. Despite the end result, one can only ponder how much money and public exposure could remedy the damage done. Do victims ever really learn to trust again? As seen through Lyndal’s eyes, the shadows of dishonesty are everywhere, as is the sense of hopelessness. As the court case reaches its climax, there’s a scene where Lyndal runs out on everyone trying to help her and sits on a train platform and gets drunk. She stares into the night, feeling as desolate as she ever has, and into a future once promising that now seems shattered. Such is Sara West’s instinctive performance, that sense of being lost in the wilderness is all too apparent, all too acute.

 

Don’t confuse Don’t Tell with the Oscar winning Spotlight. Where that film artfully exposed abuse at large, here the focus is on one victim who ultimately helped so many like her find their voice. The film is a challenge, but a robust one.