It makes excellent sense that Paul Kelly’s quintessentially Australian music Make Gravy goes to be adapted into a film.
Kelly’s ballad a few prisoner, Joe, writing residence to his brother, Dan, on 21 December lamenting his emotional angst about lacking “all of the treasure and the trash” of household Christmas, is fantastically sparse. Its brilliance, like so lots of Kelly’s lyrics, lies in its fusion of the current with an evocative untold again story that provokes imaginative prospects.
Whereas the music has turn out to be a nationwide ode to the Australian Christmas for all its British imperial weirdness of urgent forward with a sizzling roast and gravy on a 100- diploma day, it’s about so very way more. It’s concerning the push-pull of sibling rivalry and affection, the fear of dropping a fragile love, the tinderbox risks of festively mixing prolonged household and buddies, of parental imperfection and, not least maybe, the bitter style of remorse.
It’s freighted all through with human imperfection. Alternately and, at all times subtly, sunny and languorous, it is usually alive with the qualities important to nice filmic drama: thriller and private tensions.
Since its launch in 1996, at any time when I’ve been captured by the music’s excellent musicianship and hooks (they make me shiver in the identical method one other nice Kelly ballad about human foible and remorse, To Her Door – which may even be about Joe – does), I’ve come away pondering about all that has occurred thus far – and what’s going to occur subsequent.
It’s the mark of nice artwork that this music has lengthy lingered behind my consciousness. A lot so that each time I heard it, I’d develop the untold back- and forward-stories just a little extra.
In 2020 Radio Nationwide Fictions requested me to co-write, for Gravy Day, a short radio play riffing off the Kelly music. It was one of the vital pleasurable (is it OK if I say “straightforward”?) writing jobs I’ve undertaken. That’s as a result of the music, and all of the imaginative wanderings it impressed in me, had been so perpetually vivid.
In that, I’m not distinctive; so many individuals who know the music will let you know about their emotional reactions to it.
I had years earlier left Melbourne, the place I grew up and had many prolonged – generally tense – household Christmases. No marvel, then, that the music for me unfolds between Barwon jail close to Geelong and concrete Melbourne (I don’t know why, however I imagined a modest weatherboard home in suburban Reservoir, Thornbury or Preston with a deep yard, the garden punctuated with cricket stumps, card tables lined with meals, just a few eskies and a fireplace smouldering in a 44 gallon drum as day turned to night). But it surely’s a nationwide music. This could possibly be Darwin. It could possibly be suburban Adelaide. Toowoomba. Fremantle.
Like all nice writing, Make Gravy ceased to be Kelly’s as soon as he launched it into the world. He licensed us to dwell with – to say – his characters. And, so, right here was (little hippy sister?) Stella, flying in from the coast. The brothers “driving down from Queensland” are undoubtedly older, although that is nowhere enunciated. Ambiguity is nothing if not muse to imaginative and artistic potential. And Make Gravy has it in spades.
Mary has received to be the older considerably harried, unlucky-in-love however formidable huge sister to Joe and Dan and the brothers – she who’s without delay feared and the topic of their light teasing. What on earth did they do to that former boyfriend who wore “an excessive amount of cologne”?
Roger? He’s at all times been hassle. The household’s informally adopted son. He’s at all times clashed with Joe since their days on the tech. You may belief him to get lippy – and perhaps punchy – after just a few too many on Christmas night time.
And right here comes the actual fraternal (learn dramatic) stress: Rita. Little brother Danny has been in love along with her since worldly sensible Joe introduced her residence for Mum’s fiftieth within the yard at Reservoir just a few years again. Rita, “elegant”, younger Danny reckons, like Kylie or that chick from the Cranberries, but additionally pure and understated in her white T-shirt, Levi’s and RMs, lengthy raven hair tossed over her shoulder. Not his common thick blue eyeliner and boob-tube sort!
Joe put a hoop on her finger quickly as he may. They wasted no time having children.
Christmas Day just a few years later: ruined when Joe goes the knuckle on Roger who’s had it coming for bloody years.
Danny by some means finds himself gradual dancing with Rita within the yard after Dad pulls Joe into the kitchen for a talking-to. Subsequent day, Joe’s arrested. Will get three and a half with good behaviour for that financial institution job. And, so, the whole lot adjustments for everybody.
Then, simply forward of his final Christmas inside, Joe calls Danny from the massive home.
“Who’s gonna make the gravy?” he asks.
However that’s not why he’s calling.
And he can’t assist blurting it out: “Oh, brother, please don’t stab me within the again.”
What’s happening? The dramatic prospects are countless.