Beth (Lisa Harrow) and J.P. (Bruno Ganz) didn't marry for the right reasons. And they aren't really staying together for the right reasons, either.
Still, Beth would like to make a go of it but J.P. is uncommunicative and distant. And when Beth's flighty sister Vicki (Kerry Fox) returns to live with them, J.P. is even more antagonistic, complaining that Vicki doesn't help out around the house and is completely self-absorbed.
Of course, after a while, J.P. finds himself drawn to Vicki's free spirit, the antithesis of Beth's rigid, structured lifestyle. And soon it becomes apparent that J.P. and Vicki will get together, as inevitable as an Australian soap opera.
"The Last Days of Chez Nous" is the story of this triangle, set in Sydney, along with subplots about Beth's teenage daughter and the boy who comes to stay in a rented room, and Beth's strained relationship with her father.
The film is thickly plotted, with characters who are all occasionally annoying, as they meander from point A to point B without much for the audience to emotionally latch on to. Screenwriter Helen Garner and director Gillian Armstrong ("My Brilliant Career") have created a dysfunctional group that seems headed toward disaster, each making choices that may have audience members wondering why they don't just sit down and talk it out. But that's the way life is sometimes, and there are sequences here that will doubtless tap into things with which the audience can identify.
On the whole, however, the film seemed to me to be a bit half-baked. The players are good, especially Harrow in the central performance, and technically the film is first-rate and quite gorgeous to look at. But there's something missing, an emotional connection I never quite made.
"The Last Days of Chez Nous" is rated R, though the sex, nudity and profanity are restrained.