For many countries, alcoholism is not an individual addiction but a national problem. This issue has been addressed many times through film and other media; Ruben Guthrie, a spirit-obsessed Australian ad-man, is yet another chapter in the field. Using an pre-existing narrative to address veritable problems, however, is not simple. In fact, breathing fresh life into the genre is quite the task for a production in 2015.
As the cliché goes, everyone has a problem; Ruben Guthrie’s the particular vice is alcohol. Zoya, Ruben’s girlfriend, has experienced enough of his debauched lifestyle, especially after he has a near-death moment. She demands a year of separation to mend the relationship and afterwards, possibly, they can be together. Ruben, desperate to get his fiancé back, enrols in alcoholics’ help group, but temptation seems to wait around every corner.
Most addicts are surrounded by pernicious temptations besides simply their key problem, and this is certainly true for Ruben. The world is full of potential relapse, whether in pressure from his reformed-alcoholic boss or from his drug-obsessed best friend. Though this may be a dose of reality, the shallow characters appear too transparent in their intention to elicit any kind of emotional effect. The archetypes employed are unconvincing and elementary – strangely, closer to 2005 than 15.
The saving grace of Ruben Guthrie is its cinematography. Each shot, filled with deliberate juxtaposition, traps the troubled protagonist in his temptation-ridden existence: a bottle or bad influence lurks at every turn of the camera. Echoes of earlier alcohol-addiction classic The Lost Weekend are obvious and easy to appreciate thanks to the concise style.
Ruben Guthrie is the experience of an alcoholic’s year-long hangover. Like Ruben, the audience desperately wants to indulge and forget about the rigorous abstinence required by sobriety, but to win back coveted affection, upholding conviction is important. Such a socially important message requires thoughtful execution, which, unfortunately, is not apparent in this presentation.
Ruben Guthrie is released on DVD on 18th November 2015.
Watch the trailer for Ruben Guthrie here: