Charlie tries to break in the locked garage.
Set in a suburb of Queensland, Australia, My Mistress first introduces us to sixteen-year-old Charlie Boyd (Harrison Gilbertson), somewhat a loner in his upper middle class neighborhood, but still liking to do aimless summer activities like jumping up and down on an abandoned car, riding around on his bicycle, playing games at a local arcade, or more rebellious things like smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. Life deals Charlie some tough blows. Away from his home one day because his mother is giving a house party, he bikes home to find the garage door locked from the inside, which is unusual since it wasn’t when he left. Inside, to his horror, Charlie finds his father hanging from a rope, an apparent suicide. Charlie desperately tries to cut his father down, in case there is a chance to save him, but his efforts are futile. The timing and message of his father’s suicide have the effect of driving a wedge between Charlie and his mother Kate (Rachael Blake), made worse when after his father’s funeral he sees her giving a kiss to a neighbor who was a family friend. At a time when the two need each other more than ever, Charlie is angry at Kate for her betrayal and blames himself for not being there for his dad. Charlie now wants to spend his time away from home, but he doesn’t seem to have any friends to hang out with or confide in, normal relationships and activities that could help to alleviate the pain inside him.
When Charlie spots Maggie in the park, he is anxious to meet her.
With all of his angst, Charlie still hasn’t lost his sex drive, and like any typical teenaged boy his hormones are raging. He sees a beautiful French woman Maggie (Emmanuelle Béart) at a park, who was there to visit her son, Noah (Noah Fontaine). Currently he is in the custody of a social worker named Leon (Socratis Otto) rather than living with Maggie. We start to see why when she brings Noah a birthday present of a toy rifle that she must take back because it causes him to act inappropriately, and he has a tantrum when she does so. Charlie spots her seated at a picnic table after her unsatisfactory meeting, and intrigued by her, wangles a brief meeting by offering her a cigarette. Later Charlie follows her home on his bicycle, and tries to wangle a job as her gardner, pool boy, or handyman. Maggie refuses and tells Charlie to go away, but he continues to come back, and is persistent about his desire to work for her until she reluctantly gives in. He can work there, but is never to come inside the house. They start to get to know each other a little. As Charlie goes about her property he continues to be fascinated by the goings on in one of the upstairs rooms, where he sees the window open and hears strange sounds behind the white gauze curtains. One day Charlie sneaks inside and discovers what is going on. Maggie is a dominatrix with different male clients that submit to her routines of bondage, roll playing, and discipline.
Charlie stumbles into one of Maggie’s S&M sessions.
Although Charlie has violated their agreement and the smart thing to do would be to fire him, by this time Maggie has developed an interest in Charlie and their relationship develops into something more romantic, tinged with elements of strict discipline. Charlie is fascinated by her lifestyle and her ability to address his issues of personal pain. One day Charlie sneaks inside her dungeon, handcuffs himself to her hobby horse, and begs her to take him on as a client when she discovers him. She refuses to do so. Instead she begins to confides in him and even allows him to watch one of her sessions. They become intimate, and now Charlie is living in a teenager’s dream world. Late in the film there is a great scene where the two of them are walking through the local arcade in town, and Charlie suggests they play a dance game, where they must match footsteps with the game, he in his black high top chucks and Maggie barefoot. As they play, in the background you see several other teenaged boys watching in jealous awe. Even with their developing intimacy, this romance is really not meant to be, as Charlie’s mother and Leon discover what is going on. Although the film has entered into forbidden territory, things begin to backtrack as the trajectory of Charlie and Maggie’s relationship comes to its conclusion.
Charlie begs Maggie to take him on as her gardner.
Ultimately it’s the story line in My Mistress that is self-defeating. The production has a lot going for it, with well acted performances by Harrison Gilbertson, Emmanuelle Béart, and Rachael Blake, beautiful cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson, and well crafted film editing by Jill Bilcock. It is at first glance an intriguing story line, although not a particularly new idea overall. Part of the problem is because the timeline is too quick for the transformations that we see in Charlie, as he rapidly goes from pool boy to lover, and in Maggie as she goes from in charge dominatrix to lover and surrogate mother to a sixteen-year-old boy. Given her ability to be in control over men, the importance to her life of regaining custody of her son, Noah, her relationship with the social worker Leon, and the law regarding minors that would certainly affect his decision-making, her affair with Charlie develops too fast and too far to be logical. And in Charlie’s situation, you have to wonder what ever happened to his grief over his father or why there was no one else in his life his own age or from his own family (besides Kate, his mother) who even attempted to be there for him or for Kate. The story line might be more believable if Charlie and Maggie’s relationship had just precipitated into a one night stand and some of the above issues were better addressed. Writer and director Stephen Lance’s first film is certainly worth viewing and shows promise for his career as a filmmaker, but in the end leaves you somewhat emotionally disappointed.
Charlie and Maggie have an amiable parting.
The camera focuses on Charlie’s chucks as he futilely tries to save his father in the garage.
Harrison Gilbertson in his role as Charlie wears black high top chucks throughout the film, typical footwear for a sixteen-year-old teen with a rebellious streak living in an affluent neighborhood. The cinematography is very chucks friendly in this film; there are many shots framed with his chucks, which are prominent due to his tendency to wear black jeans and tee shirts with them. They become a symbol of Charlie’s youth and innocence in the cinematography. His chucks also are shown in moments of crisis, the best example at the beginning of the film, when Charlie discovers his father hanging in the garage and he desperately struggles to try and cut his father’s body down. Another quick shot occurs when Charlie wants to submit to Maggie and accelerate their relationship. He leaves his chucks near the stairs to her dungeon room so she will notice that he is in her house.
Charlie scrambles up the ladder to cut down his father.
When Maggie spots this lone pair of high top chucks, she knows that Charlie is inside her house.
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