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The Second
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The Second

There’s a good reason thrillers tend to take place mostly at night, and it doesn’t take a PhD in cinema studies to guess what that could be darkness is scarier than daylight. In that sense director Mairi Cameron’s steamy debut feature The Second – the first original film to be produced by Australian streaming platform Stan – is an unconventional spooky movie, eschewing shadows and gloom for a mostly sunny aesthetic. I regularly found myself asking: who turned the lights on?

Cinematographer Mark Wareham (who shot Cleverman, Jasper Jones and Hoges) conjures bright and burnished images, while the story – about a bestselling author who, fending off writer’s block, draws inspiration from her own life – ventures to dark places. The film’s most interesting themes explore the nature of authorship in general and the “write what you know” dictum in particular, taking awfully seriously Albert Camus’ famous quote about a work of art being a confession.

The author is known only as The Writer (Rachael Blake), her vague nomenclature one of several reminders of the film’s persistent high-mindedness (another is Camus’ words being inserted into casual conversation, as well lines of dialogue such as “I’m shining a light on the shadow of greatness”). She absconds to her old family house in a country town to bang out her second novel, taking her publisher and lover – known only as The Publisher (Vince Colosimo) – along for the ride.

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