Seen at the Sydney Underground Film Festival
There’s been a recent trend online where people are posting pictures of notes at local restaurants or other businesses that say that they don’t have enough staff because a lot of their workers left during the pandemic. It’s been a long time coming for workers of all kinds to realise that they don’t need to be treated like dirt anymore and don’t need to take demeaning jobs that make their lives actively worse so it’s nice to see people standing up and basically forcing a lot of big companies to pay their workers a livable wage and treat them better… of course, there are still those who might be stuck in a job that they hate due to circumstances beyond their control, which is the central idea behind Bone Cage and god damn is it just an incredible film.
Bone Cage, based on the play of the same name, follows Jamie (Taylor Olsen) who spends most of his day clearing forests, and most of his nights going through the clearing to look for injured animals and nurse them back to health. The backbreaking labour, combined with the mental exhaustion of knowing that he’s doing untold damage to a large amount of wildlife, would be more than enough to put any man on edge.
Jamie tries his best to make it through thanks to his friends and partner and a good old can of beer but the work is slowly taking its toll and the slow realisation that Jamie might never be able to actually leave his line of work may just push Jamie over the edge to the point where he might do something that he can’t take back.
As slow-paced a drama as you will see, Bone Cage slowly overwhelms the audience with the harsh reality of Jamie’s situation that feels all too real. He’s stuck in a job that he hates, but it pays the bills (barely) and keeps his life going. Even with the nice things happening in his life, like a marriage to his partner or going drinking with his friends, throughout the film the harsh reality of how his job is affecting him is evident on Jamie’s face and it breaks your heart for pretty much the entire runtime.
Bone Cage works because it feels incredibly real, all the actors deliver down to earth performances and the lead (who also wrote and directed this film, and we should be keeping an eye on him because this man has some serious talent) just carries the emotion of the film so easily that you’d think it was a documentary.
From the moment Bone Cage starts we’re thrown deep into this unforgiving world of people keeping their heads barely above water and the reality of the toll that can be taken mentally on people who just scrape by day by day. Smartly, the film never really makes a huge blowout about how hard life is because it doesn’t really need to, just the look on Jamie’s face says everything and this sense you get that this guy needs to get out of this rut is in every frame of the film.
On top of that, Bone Cage really makes sure to show how much impact a job like Jamie’s has on the environment, not only on the wildlife that he’s constantly trying to save but on the actual forests themselves. It’s not afraid to point out that the very job that’s keeping Jamie in place is also a job that might not even be possible in the future because there’ll be no resources left. The full weight of this one job is laid bare and it’s compelling, in part because it’s so familiar to us.
Bone Cage is a fascinating drama that seems to perfectly fit the time. Its relatable characters, engaging story and gorgeous visuals make for a film that is completely captivating from start to finish. Every element of this film just works and it really makes me eager to see what the people who made it do next.