In the early ’80s, Josh (Julian Dennison) is a seventeen-year-old high school student. Each day at school, Josh does his best to keep to himself, keeping his head down to avoid conflict with fellow students. Life for Josh has its challenges. Not only is he constantly mocked and bullied at school, but at home, he needs to assist his older brother, Jamie (James Rolleston). Jamie was once a football icon in the community but now suffers from a past injury. Josh’s mother does what she can to support the family, including working at Josh’s school as a cleaner.
One day, while Josh is at school, his teacher, Madigan (Rhys Darby), invites him to join a drama group, which currently only has about four members. Josh declines, claiming he wouldn’t be interested. However, during a lunch break at school, Josh is bullied again to the point that he feels like no matter where he goes, he can’t find a form of peace. He decides to walk away from the bullying and finds refuge by attending the drama group Madigan invited him to. Soon, Josh gives the drama group a chance, and his teacher discovers he can act better than anyone at the school. The drama group unlocks some new interests in Josh. It encourages him to scratch the surface in other areas of his life, including trying to understand his family heritage and background better. Josh has been keeping silent for too long, and now things inside are stirring up. He decides now is the time to start using his voice and know who he truly is.
Directed by Paul Middleditch and Hamish Bennett (Second Director), Uproar is a drama film with minor comedy moments. I’ll confess, considering Julian Dennison and Rhys Darby are well known for their wacky and random comedy, the movie surprised me with its serious tone and dramatic plot. Granted, some random one-liners earn the odd chuckle and grin, but Uproar is most certainly a dramatic, heartwarming story of a young man seeking his identity.
Here, actor Julian Dennison shows his emotional and dramatic skills, which are impressive and incredible. Josh’s journey encompasses discovering interests and hobbies and learning to make a stand for a better future for himself, his family and those around him. It should come as no surprise that actor Rhys Darby once again delivers a performance as Madigan, the teacher, that is highly likable and lively. As for the story and pace, the film slowly builds towards a finale that is deeply impacting. Viewers’ heartstrings are pulled, particularly during critical moments in the third act. The film’s uplifting messages are clear, and the character developments are inspiring when viewers reflect on the journey.
Overall, call me silly, but given the talent and cast, I was expecting Uproar to be a witty and laugh-out-loud comedy film. Instead, it’s something more extraordinary- the story of a young man going on a personal journey while, at the same time, making discoveries about himself and his family background. Uproar is a dramatic film with plenty of powerful and inspiring moments, and the finale is gratifying; it’s impossible not to reflect on the journey afterwards, even long after you see the credits appear. It’s great to see actor Julian Dennison take a chance to stretch his acting abilities in something profound. His work here is most impressive, and the story and intent are clear and strong.