TV Review: The Slap: Richie

Eight episodes have seen the aftershock of a moment where a man slapped a child who was not his own at a barbeque. The final episode ends with a character that was seemingly on the periphery becoming forged to the people and the events of The Slap.

The most innocent character out of the principal eight is Richie (Blake Davis). However, the events that occur post the Hugo slap see Richie’s youthful innocence slowly disintegrate. In Anouk’s episode, Richie is literally bouncing off the walls when he and Connie (Sophie Lowe) go to Rhys’ gig. By the time we reach his own episode, Richie is very subdued. The revelations of Connie’s “encounter” with Hector (Jonathan LaPaglia) have constantly pervaded his mind.

Naturally, all of the drama comes to an explosion and all is revealed at the veterinary clinic. What the truth actually becomes much more of a complicated issue and sees a devastating set of events that follow. Shattered from Connie’s betrayal, Richie swallows some pills. As his mum Tracey (Jane Allsop) drives him to the emergency room, she profusely apologises for her attack at Richie back at the veterinary clinic and recounts the few brief occasions that she regretfully hit her child. This seems to work as one view of corporal punishment; a highly contentious issue in the mini-series.

After the tumultuous life-changing events occur, we see a glimmer of hope return to Richie’s former pre-slap innocence. A kiss from Connie revives Richie, and the bouncy energy returns when they are at the music festival; a representation of youth.

Blake Davis is truly wonderful as Richie and plays him with complete seriousness. In a role that could have been easily overplayed and overdramatised, Davis displays a much quieter subduedness. Sophie Lowe is once again terrific as Connie, but this time displays much harsher qualities that momentarily destroy the relationships between many characters. Melissa George came a long way as Rosie only to undo it all within a second with “Did the old man scare you?” after Hugo spat on an elderly man. Sophie Okonedo and Jonathan LaPaglia once more deal with the difficult strains of mid-life crisis and infidelity with ease. Jane Allsop also gets a quick chance to shine in a few terrific scenes with Davis.

Assigning blame seems to be an off-sided effect of The Slap. The final sequence shows where the main characters are heading in time, and as the camera glides over their movements, we are reminded of the events that took place. But who is to blame for the damage? Hugo? Harry? Rosie? Hector? Connie? Really, it is all a subjective experience and it seems that almost every person has their own burdens to carry.

Matchbox Pictures produced a compelling mini-series that unsurprisingly saw them take out the Independent Producer of the Year at the 2011 SPAA Independent Producers Awards. Showrunner Tony Ayres assembled a strong group of filmmakers and screenwriters over the eight episodes. As director of Richie’s episode, Ayres should also be proud of directing one of the strongest episodes of the series, also thanks to screenwriter Brendan Cowell (who made a cameo as Richie’s dad.) The ABC contributed uncompromising Australian drama to the small screen. The adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ best-selling novel proved to be captivating and hard-hitting television that took an unflinching look at contemporary Australia. And for this, we can be very proud.

To see other episode reviews, click here.

The finale of The Slap aired on Thursday 24th November on ABC1. It will be screened on Friday 25th November on ABC2 and is available on iView. The DVD will be released by Hopscotch Entertainment on December 1st.

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