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REVIEW: Ruin (Michael Cody & Amiel Courtin-Wilson – 2013) [Sydney Film Festival]


Warning this is NOT a tourism ad for Cambodia or humanity. Ruin is the latest film from Michael Cody and Amiel Courtin-Wilson (the team behind Hail) and it paints a dire portrait of companionship in the midst of abject dehumanisation.

Phirun (Rous Mony) is barely living off of the street. The moment we’re introduced to him he’s being harassed at work and he can’t handle it anymore. He causes a stir and is fired. Sovanna (Sang Malen) is a prostitute feigning sickness. When her pimp asks some particularly graphic diagnostic questions she can’t answer, she takes a beating. Phirun resorts to theft to survive and holds up a store; while Sovanna, fearful of being beaten to death, electrocutes her pimp/captor and escapes into the night. Ruin begins at the end of its characters ropes; frightening poverty, desperation and being squeezed into amorality.

Cody and Wilson hold you uncomfortably close to the action. They’re as active as combat camera operators running through the streets and swirling around the action and the want to get up close with the oily faced creeps that antagonise and harm Phirun and Sovanna. You endure the stumbling Phirun lost in his depressed stupidity and you get so close that you can smell the alcohol on their breath and taste the tang of their sweat. These wretched happenings are cushioned with deviations of entrancing jazz influenced score and ethereal and opaque imagery. It’s as if the elements are the only constants, existing in this spiraling chaos.


Phirun’s Rous Mony gets meaning in his life from protecting Sovanna; in those heightened scenes where her life is being threatened his complete disregard for human life, and his aptitude for theft makes him a valuable asset. However once Sovanna compulsively manipulates him, she reduces him to an apathetic infant. Malen’s Sovanna is treated like a sex slave; she’s monetized her sexuality in the place where every single male that she interacts with wants to rape her, some to death. It’s difficult viewing, not only in that service setting but there’s even a moment where a group of men in the street swarm her like hyenas swarm a carcass. It’s a horrendous portrait of men devolved into pillaging, raping butchers. Sovanna though becomes a Venus fly trap for a particularly grotesque client and exacts a bloody revenge. When they’re together though it seems that Sovanna holds the strings and Phirun is her instrument of violence, there are no depths to their sociopathic behaviour.

Ruin is misery, stunning misery. 

[rating=3] and a half

Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

Directed by: Michael Cody & Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Written by: Michael Cody & Amiel Courtin-Wilson

Starring: Sang Malen, Rous Mony 

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