Although it manages to hit most of the right notes in the unfolding tragedy of its lead character, Cedar Boys unfortunately fails to entirely capture the audience for a variety of reasons. In spite of this, Serhat Caradee’s debut feature is likely to be recalled as one of the stronger Australian releases of 2009.
Les Chantery is Tarek, a young panelbeater whose elder brother is in gaol for unspecified but probably drug-related crimes and needs money to pay his lawyer for a new appeal against his sentence. When Tarek’s friend Nabil (Buddy Dannoun) offers him the chance to split the takings from a home invasion and robbery, Tarek’s filial loyalty will mean he goes against his best instincts, inviting tragic consequences.
Cedar Boys is being marketed as an exploration of the plight of Lebanese-Australian youth in the western suburbs of Sydney, when in fact it is more of a traditional tragedy than might be expected. Although it does offer some insight into the racism experienced by these members of our society, this element is actually rather subtle, with Cedar Boys most content when lingering on Tarek and the difficult choices he faces.
Chantery is excellent in the lead role of Tarek, offering up a performance that clearly speaks to his conflicting loyalties and traditions. It is perhaps Caradee’s writing of this character that is mostly responsible for the film’s success, however, as Tarek is allowed a clear set of values by which his behaviour must be defined. Working within the bounds written for him, Chantery rarely waivers.
Solid support comes from Dannoun and Waddah Sari as Sam, both of whose characters provide some form of conflict for Tarek to experience that will shape the outcome by film’s end. Dannoun is excellent in a role that is perhaps marginally more interesting than that of Sam, whose tough guy drug dealer schtick is fairly uninspired. Rachael Taylor is given little to do as the object of Tarek’s desires.
The soundtrack plays a big part in Cedar Boys, and features original work by local hip-hop artist Matuse (who also features in a supporting role). The forceful rhythms provide appropriate accompaniment to many of the driving scenes, and add a note of menace to the action on screen.
Although Cedar Boys is a technically well-made and performed film with strong characters and an archetypal tragic storyline, I find it hard to imagine watching it again.Rating: