Review: Don’t Tell

Powerful courtroom drama throws light on landmark Australian child abuse case. Sara West once again underlines her impressive ability.  

In a case of impeccable timing as rumours swell that criminal proceedings may be initiated against Cardinal George Pell, Tori Garrett’s stirring institutional abuse courtroom drama Don’t Tell hits Australian screens this week.

Based on the real court case that shook the Australian justice system and paved the way for the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, it features an incredible turn by Sara West (Bad Girl, The Daughter). She plays Lyndal, the young woman at the heart of it all abused by her housemaster Kevin Guy at Anglican school Toowoomba Preparatory, with The Dressmaker‘s Gyton Grantley in chilling form in flashback sequences.

The main thrust of the drama follows the lasting effects on her a decade later, after his suicide, found with a list of all his victims in his shirt pocket. Bearing the psychological scars and abusing drugs and drink as a coping mechanism, she decides to take on a brutally dismissive church who sees her trauma as little more then a nuisance to be waved away with a $40,000 cheque and no admission of guilt.

Adapted from the non-fiction book of the same name by her solicitor Stephen Roche, he is played by an amiable Aden Young. Roche is initially reluctant to take on the case following the suicide of his previous client, another victim of Guy, but eventually does so with the assistance of barrister Bob Myers – Jack Thompson of Breaker Morant acclaim.

Distanced from her parents (Susie Porter and Martin Sacks), the closest Lyndal has to emotional support before the legal fight is psychiatrist Joy Conolly, a welcome if underutilised Rachel Griffiths. Jacqueline Mackenzie is also great as the defence lawyer working for the church, an all too easy role to vilify but who manages to land a dignified pay off here.

A fascinating procedural, Garrett’s feature debut Don’t Tell may be a little straightforward in its presentation, but it’s carried by West. She delivers both the necessary fragility, replete with lash outs, and Lyndal’s determination to see justice done, not just for herself, or even for all of Guy’s victims, but for all children who have faced this unimaginable horror.

Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords