Critical Review of


“Every day in the city people disappear.  Some are never found.  Some don’t want to be.”

Tom White (Missing Tom)


Brett Miller
MCC 231
Australian Cinema
18 April 2008



Part I: Film Information


Director:                                Alkinos Tsilimidos

Writer:                                   Daniel Keene

Producers:                             Daniel Scharf
                                                Alkinos Tsilimidos

Executive Producers:           Domenico Procacci
                                                Sue Murray

Music:                                     Paul Kelly and the Boon Companions

Director of Photography:   Toby Oliver

Production Company:        Rescued Films/ Fandango Australia


Tom White                            Colin Friels
Helen White                          Rachael Blake
Gemma White                      Isabella Oldham
Christopher White               Adam Sarros
Matt                                        Dan Spielman
Phil                                         David Field
Christine                                Loene Carmen
Malcom                                  Bill Hunter
Jet                                           Jarryd Jinks
Secretary                               Laura Gordon
Darren Burrows                   Nick Barkla
Noel Cartwright                  Peter Curtin
Neil                                         Kevin Harrington
Tony                                       Mark Constable
Peter                                       Jonathan Kemp
Paul                                        Arthur Angel
Irish                                        James Shaw
Harry                                     Jack Charles
Tiger                                       Cliff Ellen
Irene                                       Angela Punch McGregor
IF Awards-2004

  1. Best Actress- Loene Carmen
  2. Best Cinematography- Toby Oliver
  3. Best Editing- Ken Sallows
  4. Best Feature Film
  5. Best Script- Daniel Keene


  1. Best Actor- Colin Friels

FCCA Awards- 2004

  1. Best Director- Alkinos Tsilimidos
  2. Best Film
  3. Best Music Score- Paul Kelly
  4. Best Supporting Actor (Female)- Rachael Blake
  5. Best Supporting Actor (Female)- Loene Carmen
  6. Best Supporting Actor (Male)- Bill Hunter


  1. Best Actor (Male)- Colin Friels
  2. Best Editing- Ken Sallows
  3. Best Original Screenplay- Daniel Keene
  4. Best Supporting Actor (Male)- Dan Spielman

AFI Awards- 2004

    1. Best Actor in a Leading Role- Colin Friels
    2. Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Dan Spielman
    3. Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Rachael Blake
    4. Best Actress in a Supporting Role- Loene Carmen
    5. Best Cinematography- Toby Oliver
    6. Best Costume Design- Jill Johanson
    7. Best Direction- Alkinos Tsilimidos
    8. Best Editing- Ken Sallows
    9. Best Film
    10. Best Production Design- Dan Potra
    11. Best Original Screenplay- Daniel Keene
    12. Best Sound
    13. Young Actor’s Award- Jarryd Jinks

Australian Cinematographers Society’s Golden Tripod- 2005

  1. Won- Toby Oliver

Release Dates

Australia- 31 July 2004 (Melbourne International Film Festival) Premiere

Australia- 19 August 2004

France- 13 May 2004 (Cannes Film Market)

South Korea- 10 October 2004 (Pusan International Film Festival)

Singapore- 11 March 2005 (Australian Film Festival)

UK- 4 May 2005 (Commonwealth Film Festival)

France- 20 October 2005 (Saint-Tropez Festival of the Antipodes)

Italy- July 2006

Russia- 11 November 2007 (TV Premiere)

Finland- 16 November 2007 (TV Premiere)


Box Office Figures

The following chart was accessed from  The first column shows what number it was ranked in the box office for that week.  The next shows how many weeks in release the film has been.  The first $ column shows the amount for that week and the final column shows the total amount of money the film has made in theaters.  Tom White was in the box office from August 19, 2004 until September 1, 2004.






Total $



TOM WHITE (M), PALACE [12/ $4,685]






TOM WHITE (M), PALACE [12/ $6,420]






TOM WHITE (M), PALACE [12/ $3,079]






TOM WHITE (M), PALACE [12/ $4,379]




Other Film Information


  1. Drama

Running Time

  1. 106 minutes


  1. English


  1. M 15+
  2. Drug Use, Adult Themes, Violence, Strong Coarse Language, Nudity

Filming Location

  1. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Bibliographies of Interviews

Colin Friels & Alkinos Tsilimidos
         Interviewed by Margaret Pomeranz

Colin Friels
         Interview on Tom White: Special Edition (2004) extra features

Rachael Blake
         Interview on Tom White; Special Edition (2004) extra features

Colin Friels & Alkinos Tsilimidos
         Interviewed by Andrew L. Urban


Colin Friels
         Interviewed by Michael Shmith


Bibliographies of Reviews

Paul Martin
         Melbourne Film Blog

Paul Byrnes
         Australian Screen

Impact Internet Services

Emrys Hughes
         State of the Arts Reviews

Andrew L. Urban
         Urban Cinefile

Louise Keller
         Urban Cinefile

Stephen Groenewegen
         E Film Critic


Ben Goldsmith
         Senses of Cinema

Peter Thompson
         Nine MSN

Julie Rigg
         Movie Time

Christina Bruce
         Search SA Communications

Stewy Jones
         Adelaide University Film Society


On-line Presence

The search for information about Tom White was harder then I had originally planned.  Although there were a good number of sites to use, I had expected many more.  This could be due to my belief that the film should have done better in the box office and would be more popular.  The following sites are the ones that I believe contain the best information about the film.

Internet Movie Database

Urban Cinefile

At the Movies- ABC TV

Part II: Critical Review


Tom White (Alkinos Tsilimidos) portrays the life a man that suddenly gives up everything he has, because of an incident at work.  Tom (Colin Friels) has the perfect life, two kids a wife and a nice home, but he is stuck in a rut at work and is not performing the best.  The boss tells him to take a vacation but Tom overreacts and never comes back.  Not only does he quit his job, he also leaves his wife and two children.  He meets four completely different characters during his journey, each “teaching” him an important lesson and providing a different kind of security.  He meets a homosexual, an ex-junkie carnival worker, another old homeless man, and finally a young kid who likes graffiti.  At first, Tom enjoys his sense of freedom and no responsibilities, but as time passes, he starts to doubt his decisions.  Tom and his companions encounter many struggles during the way which bring up many important problems in today’s society.   


The film begins with little introductions to some of the characters in the film.  It serves as a background for the audience and fills in some of the blanks later in the film.  Tom White (Colin Friels) has it all.  He has a wife, two kids, and a better than average suburban home.  Tom however, does have problems.  His boss (Peter Curtin) calls him into his office one day at work and tells him that he should take a vacation.  Tom has been feverishly working on the Clear Water Springs project, as he is a draughtsman.  When Tom brings this up, his boss informs him that they had already discussed this and that he had been taken off the project three weeks ago.  This brings up his first problem.  Tom is so stressed that he doesn’t even realize reality or fails to comprehend it.  He has already twice looked at his hands shaking violently by themselves, which is another sign of stress.

The film starts off almost right away with a serious tone and sets the mood very well for the story.  Many important issues are portrayed and the movie was definitely made to make you consider them.  I believe this is one of the greatest aspects of the film.

Here begins the down fall of Tom White.  First after he had stormed out of the office he goes to a pub where he slams all of his mates’ beers and then makes a big commotion at the bar.  Then he drives off to the project site where he tries to fight with the architect in charge of the project.  During this time, one of Tom’s friends tells Helen (Rachael Blake), Tom’s wife that Tom had been taken of the Clear Water Springs project three weeks before this.

At this time in the film, Tom’s journey as a “homeless” man begins even though he does not start living on the streets until later.  As he walks into a public restroom he hears a cry from a man with a bruised and bleeding face.  Tom helps him home where he then starts drinking and then spends the night.  Matt (Dan Spielman), is a young homosexual who is addicted to pain killers and other pills.  The next morning Matt asks: “Are you running away from home…you look like a man running away from home?”  During his time with Matt, Tom drinks constantly as well as taking the pills.  The first comical scene in the film begins when Tom goes to a gay bar with Matt, gets incredibly drunk, and is on the dance floor falling over and having a good time.  Alkinos Tsilimidos and Daniel Keene did a great job, in my opinion, of mixing in a few comical scenes to lighten the movie.  Since it is a heavy and emotional film, this scene as well as a few others later in the film, were put in the script nicely. 

The next day Tom makes a call to his house but when he hears his son’s voice he does not have the courage to talk and hangs up instead.  This is the first scene where Tom doubts his choices so far.  He ends up getting kicked out by Matt because he wants his new boyfriend Paul (Arthur Angel) to move in with him because he is lonely.  Loneliness is a major theme in the film because all of the main characters are dealing with it.  I will describe the other characters’ loneliness when I discuss them.

Tom is officially homeless as he starts to wander the streets.  He ends up going to a carnival where he meets Christine (Loene Carmen) a carnie who shares a hobby with Tom, drinking.  By this point in the film, there have been many scenes of drinking and alcohol abuse.  It should be known though, alcohol is not the cause of the character’s problems, just a way to soften them or get rid of them.  When Christine is walking home from work, the man that is seen with her in the first few minutes of the film which I described above runs into her and tries flirting with her.  Phil (David Field) is a junkie and considered somewhat of a pimp.  He has a Rottweiler and is never without him.  Tom appears out of an alley and saves Christine from an altercation.  Tom and Christine go out to a bar after work the next night and then end up having sex, which brings up the next big issue, marital cheating.  They end up having sex again soon in the film, but this time, Tom cries right after and I believe it is the second place where he begins to think he made the wrong decision.  This also shows the loneliness of Christine.  She is living a bad life, working at a carnival and abusing alcohol, so she needs someone to be with even if this man has a wife.

Tom and Christine again go to a pub but this time Christine gets upset at Tom and storms out.  She goes back to her place to get wasted but Phil comes to her apartment.  He tries to enter but she smashes her bottle of alcohol over his head.  Phil’s dog breaks free and viciously mauls Christine.  Later that night after being woken up on the beach by a police officer, Tom goes back to Christine’s apartment and finds her barely alive bleeding to death. He calls the police and she is taken to the hospital.  This is the last time Christine is part of the film.

Tom saw the bloody paw prints on the apartment floor and wanted to take revenge.  He waits behind a wall for Phil and his dog and then hits them both will a steel pole.  An old man appears and stops Tom from killing Phil.   Malcolm (Bill Hunter) is another homeless man with a secret hideout above a train station.  They soon become close and share their stories with each other.  One night Malcolm is very drunk and becomes lonely and tries to kiss Tom.  It doesn’t happen but Malcolm realizes that he needs to go back to his “family.”  They go to a trailer park where Malcolm is reunited with his lover.  Tom however is so lonely that he masturbates outside.  Malcolm unfortunately has a severe stroke but he passes on the key to the hideout to Tom.

One night while Tom is sleeping, he hears noise and then discovers three kids spray painting.  He tries to scare them and two run off but he catches one.  They then have to run back in because security starts to chase them.  Tom and Jet (Jarryd Jinks) begin a special relationship.  I believe Tom liked him so much because he saw so much of himself in Jet and he could be a father figure again since Jet’s dad (Andy McPhee) was not doing a very good job.  Another scene to lighten the mood occurs with Tom and Jet.  They go out on the streets and pretend Jet is sick and they end up making thirty-two dollars because of it.  They then go to Jet’s house to watch his hero, Jet Li.  Leon, Jet’s dad, is a thief and comes home with some injuries.  He yells at Jet to pack his bags because they have to get out of town, since he is in trouble.  Leon then meets Tom where he has a disagreement with him about how to raise children.  The police storm in and take them all to the station to be questioned.  After Tom makes a statement he signs out and then is asked if he wants his wife contacted since he did not have any identification.  Tom replies with “I don’t know.”  This is final scene where Tom majorly doubts himself.  He in turn passes the hideout key to Jet and then returns to the city.  He goes to his wife’s work and confronts her.  It is a very awkward and tense scene.  The viewer does not know which way it will go.  It turns out that everyone has moved on and that they won’t be getting back together.

Then the ending, if you can call it that.  For me it was the most disappointing part of the movie.  Whereas some films are better ending without closure, I believe this one needed a little more information.  It shows Tom in a small apartment drinking coffee, with new clothes and civilized, but keeping the long hair and beard.  The next shot is then him standing outside staring at the sky.  This is also the last shot of the film.  Various questions are left unanswered and it leaves the viewer with some confusion.

Discussion of Genre

I believe that this film belongs to two main genres and I will argue a third.  The first genre is melodrama.  Tom does what maybe 1 or 2 percent of the population would ever do.  I believe that he overreacts greatly since his boss just told him to take a vacation and not that he was fired.  Many people might quit the job, but they wouldn’t just get up and leave everything including their family.  I believe the director made his actions so over the top so that the audience would see and understand the seriousness of the problems.

The next genre I will argue for is social realism.  There were countless problems that the film touched on and did a good job of showing how important they are.  There was the issue of alcoholism, and how many people abuse it in order to cover their problems or sadness.  The main one, I would think, is homelessness and the lives that they have to live.  They have to try to survive from day to day.  Marital faithfulness was brought up when Tom cheated on his wife and had sex with Christine.  This is ruining many marriages today and is causing significant problems.  Stress and depression are probably the main reasons why Tom went into his fit in the first place and are shown countless other times during the film.  These are just a few of the problems, so I believe this many examples would suffice to make Tom White a social realist film.

Finally, I believe that Tom White is a coming-of-age film.  It doesn’t really compare to the more obvious films of this genre, but I believe it does tie in.  Usually this genre of film focuses on a younger person going through changes; however Tom has his rite of passage when he is an adult.  Through his experiences and hardships he learns who he really is and hopefully, since the ending is left up to the viewer, he enjoys life again.

Critical Uptake

In his review of Tom White, Paul Byrnes explains:
The exploration of such a catastrophic failure is unusual in Australian cinema, as is the poetic way that director Alkinos Tsilimidos explores it. He’s not bound to the British traditions of social realism, so the film isn’t dingy or documentary-like. It’s more like a rich nocturnal fantasy, in a style that suggests Irish director Neil Jordan as an influence. (Byrnes)

This is part of the feeling I had after I had watched the film twice.  I didn’t really see it as an Australian film, but rather American.  Besides the accents and the setting of the film, I didn’t really see the same characteristics of other Australian movies I have seen.

Byrnes goes on to say that Colin Friel’s performance in Tom White was “astonishing-one of the best of his career” (Byrnes).  This seemed to be a common belief as many reviews enjoyed his performance.

Megan Spencer from the SBS movie show puts it nicely:
Giving us a glimpse of an unseen world is part of why we turn to cinema.  Making unremarkable stories remarkable is an achievement worth bottling in any medium, let alone film.  That this was achieved with such intimacy and compassion in Tom White is a testament to the tenacity and talent of Alkinos Tsilimidos…we could do with a few more films like this in our Australian movie landscape. (Impact Internet Services)

An interesting strategy by Alkinos Tsilimidos which may have led the film to be so different was that Colin Friels was the only actor to see the whole script.  Alkinos explains:
I just didn't want any of the other cast to know anything about Tom White. I didn't want them to know where he came from or where he was going, because I thought, "Well, why do they need to know that?" And I didn't want any preconceived ideas about Tom White if they've read sections they're not involved in. And I just gave each actor the responsibility of their own world. (Pomeranz)

The film was shot in only five weeks and it was done mostly at night to capture the true mood of the movie.  I believe this adds to the realness of the film and is one of the more valuable aspects.

Colin Friels does not usually research his roles, however for this film he spent some time with a homeless man and listened to his stories.  In my opinion, when a character can connect to someone who is in that situation in real life, he or she plays the role so much better.

Overall the film was usually enjoyed by most people.  I am confused to as why it did so poorly in the box office however.  The only complaints I found in reviews were about the concept of time.  In the script, the film was supposed to take place over five or six months.  In some parts of the film it was hard to distinguish how much time had actually passed.  Besides that, critics as well as myself found it to be an exceptional film.

Other Work of Crew

Alkinos Tsilimidos (Director)

  1. Everynight…Everynight (1994)
  2. Silent Partner (2001)
  3. Em4Jay (2006)

Daniel Keene (Writer)

  1. Silent Partner (2001)
  2. Em4Jay (2006)

Toby Oliver (Cinematographer)

  1. Everynight…Everynight (1994)
  2. Stitched (1995)
  3. Heaven on the 4th Floor (1998)
  4. Fresh Air (1999)
  5. The Big House (2000)
  6. Looking for Alibrandi (2000)
  7. Silent Partner (2001)
  8. N.D.E. (2002)
  9. Waiting Alone (2004)
  10. Em4Jay (2006)
  11. Last Train To Freo (2006)
  12. Forbidden Lie$ (2007)
  13. Courting Hope (2007)


References used in Part II

Gillard, Gary. Ten Types of Australian Film. 2nd. Murdoch, WA: Murdoch University, 2008.
Byrnes, Paul. "Tom White (2004)." Australian Screen. 14 Apr 2008 <>.
Spencer, Megan. "Movie Pages Presents Tom White." 2004. Impact Internet Services. 12 Apr 2008 <>.
Pomeranz, Margaret. "At The Movies." 2008. ABC. 14 Apr 2008 <>.
Tom White (Missing Tom)