Opening with particularly confronting sexual imagery – something that appears unwarranted for gratuity sake before its bookend re-appearance – Disclosure is an unbearably tense and all-too raw drama that leans into the notion that adults can still very much act like children when provoked.
And provoked the quartet at the centre of Michael Bentham‘s film are. Not entirely dissimilar to the set-up of Roman Polanski’s 2011 black comedy Carnage, where two sets of parents meet, initially rather cordially, to discuss the violent dynamic between their respective children, before the evening escalates to taunts and threats in child-like fashion, Disclosure presents alike concern between opposing parents and the actions of their offspring.
Though the parents in question appear worlds apart in their social standings, their monetary comfort is evidently on par, with both neighbours to the other in a seemingly prestigious community. Emily and Danny Bowman (Matilda Ridgway and Mark Leonard Winter) are a bohemian coupling. She’s a documentary filmmaker, he’s a journalist, and they both clearly enjoy the thrill of capturing their sexual sessions. Less exciting, and far more straight-and-narrow, are Joel and Bek Chalmers (Tom Wren and Geraldine Hakewill), a running politician and his keeping-up-appearances wife, who have come to the Bowmans to reassess the accusations against their son.
We learn that Joel and Bek’s 9-year-old son, Ethan, has been accused by Emily and Danny’s 4-year-old daughter, Natasha, of an attack. The details are never specified, but we assume its sexual in nature, and though it seemed Joel and Bek initially accepted Natasha’s account of what took place, they have since re-evaluated, Bek particularly stern that she has raised her son in a manner that would not result in the accusations put forward. Emily is just as aggressive, relaying that a 4-year-old has no reason to lie, especially about the nature of what took place, and when she suggests that she is going to contact child protective services, it angers the Chalmers’ further, specifically Joel, who believes such an investigation would ruin his political career.
Bentham’s script makes it a point to never resolve the matter at hand – which one of the children is lying is left intentionally ambiguous – but Bek’s actions and her commentary on past trauma and what it would mean to her should Ethan suggest actions of a predatory nature leans into a more guilty mentality; the further actions of Joel ultimately blackmailing Emily and Danny doesn’t bode well for them either. The performances presented here are all uniformly exemplary, and though the dialogue at times has a theatrical flare, Ridgway, Winter, Wren, and Hakewill never waver in their commitment.
Whilst the “he said/she said” nature of the narrative means the conversations start to feel a little repetitive, Bentham keeps the overall pacing tight and the tension layered so that even when you start to feel like you’ve heard all of this before – which, really, is why these conversations feel so grounded in reality- you’re undeniably still hooked because each argument holds validity in a way that allows audiences to reach their own conclusion pertaining to the “truth”.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Disclosure will be available on digital platforms in Australia from September 15th, 2021.