Only the Brave (2007): Ana Kokkinos’ Aussie Tale of Tough Girls


A harrowing, ultra-realistic portrait of coming-of-age among a group of tough teenage girls is depicted in Only the Brave, a new Australian film of astonishing raw power.

Picture’s running-time of one hour will limit its theatrical prospects to gay/lesbian and other film festivals, but it should function as a calling card for Ana Kokkinos, its talented director.

Set in the seedy, barren outskirts of Melbourne, the story centers on two working-class girls, Alex and Vicki, who live on the edge and are desperate to get out of their desolate, dead-end surroundings. Residing with her dad, Alex (Elena Mandalis) dreams about reuniting with her alcoholic mother, a singer who now lives in the North. The equally wild Vicki (Dora Kaskanis), who aspires to become a singer, is Alex’s pal and object of her growing and unsettling affection.

Sharply observant script relates the tragic spiral of events, at school and at home, that dooms Alex, Vicki, and their clique of troubled teenagers. The harsh realism of physical fights at school and sexual abuse at home is contrasted with dreamy sequences, like flashbacks of Alex’s mother or fantasies of finding her singing in another city.

Only the Brave has the novelty of portraying alienation and rite of passage among girls whose ethnic minority (Australians of Greek descent) accentuates even more their marginal positions and feelings. Dressed in heavy trench coats, these “bad” girls spend their time smoking dope, setting fire to hedges, hanging out at abandoned houses and deserted train stations–in short, engaging in behavioral patterns that in American movies are strictly boys’ domain.

Though pic’s dominant tone is dark and brooding, there’s also tenderness, best exemplified in Alex’s relationship with her sensitive school teacher Kate (Moudo Davey), who encourages her literary talent and even begins to respond to her sexual yearnings. In the film’s most lyrical scene, Vicki lays her head in Alex’s lap, aching for a caress that her terrified friend is afraid–or perhaps incapable–of giving.

Technical credits of the film, which was shot in 16 mm, are modest on what appears to be an extremely low-budgeted effort. But in congruence with her brilliantly naturalistic direction, Kokkinos imbues the whole picture with alert intelligence and depth, successfully resisting the more clinical strategy of American TV-movies-of-the-week.


A Pickpocket Productions film. Produced by Fiona Eagger. Directed by Ana Kokkinos. Screenplay, Kokkinos and Mira Robertson. Camera (color), Jaems Grant; sound, James Currie. Reviewed at a Raleigh Studios screening room (In L.A. International Gay & Lesbian Film & Video Festival), L.A., June 22, 1994. Running time: 60 min.

Alex…Elena Mandalis
Vicki…Dora Kaskanis
Kate……Moudo Davey
Rog……..Bob Bright