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Friends Review

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In South Africa during the end of the 1980's three girls move in together, when they realise that they don't really know each other, one plants bombs at night, the other peacefully protests for student rights while the other runs away from her problems by burying herself in her work.

★★★★★

As the 1980's draw to a close, South Africa faces an escalation in its political unrest, and in Johannesburg three young women — friends since university — are confronted by the reality of the differences that exist between them. Sophie (Fox, in a blisteringly intense performance as an only-child of distant parents) has a white middle-class background, works as a librarian by day, and — unknown to the others — plants bombs for the ANC by night; Thoko (Kente) is a black English teacher who fights for a better life for her students through non-violent means and Aninka (Burgers) is an Afrikaans archeologist who blocks out the turmoil around her and looks to the past for her answers instead.

Thus far based on a false intimacy, the women's friendship fails to acknowledge these distinctions and prevents them from relating to each other on anything but a superficial level. The road to a better understanding — their own as well as the country as a whole — is a painful one. The involvement of Fox in a terrorist act which kills two people, in particular, threatens to preclude the true friendship she so desperately needs.

Ultimately, what writer-director Elaine Proctor offers up here is a lovingly crafted portrait of her native Johannesburg in all its horror and beauty — the leafy suburbs, the savagely picturesque veldt, the troubled townships. And with no accusations made, nor blame laid on any particular race or organisation, this powerful, moving and uplifting film uses its unfailingly human story to convey its anti-apartheid message without a hint of the righteousness which so often accompanies such statements. Intelligent, affecting and thoroughly thought-provoking cinema.

The three female leads make this film an enjoyable one, keeping their characters engaging while the plot drifts from one to the other before settling on the theme of anti-apartheid to bring them together. Consequently we are left with a film that raises many questions, leaving you thinking as the credits begin to roll.

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