The Waiting City Review



The Waiting City plays host to an apparently happily married Australian couple, Fiona (played by Radha Mithcel) who is a corporate lawyer and her husband Ben (played by Joel Edgerton) who is a struggling musician. They make the journey to Kolkata to collect their adopted baby. However, they soon experience many bureaucratic delays and are forced to ‘wait in the city’ (see what they did there?). Soon the two reflect on their strained relationship and their motives for adopting a baby all the while being subject to the magical, spiritual and mystical powers of the Indian city which affects them both.




I could see where the film wanted to go; the moral and spiritual reawakening of a flawed couple in a foreign land but it did fail. This is either due to the performances of the actors or their direction (perhaps both).


The audience is not given the chance to like or, at least, empathise with the protagonists. We therefore have no stake in their plight. We are introduced to a couple who, by most accounts, are odious ‘ugly’ tourists. There is too much for the audience to assume: i.e. – a high-power lawyer is married to an unemployed musician = why? What served as the attraction in the first place? We don’t see any attraction or sense of love between the two, therefore there is no real stake to whether or not their relationship remains intact in this quite stressful time.


Their characters don’t follow the script’s planned emotional and spiritual arc for the main characters. Even amongst the couple’s spiritual awakening, they seem to only turn to superficial actions of religious practice out of selfish reasons; i.e. – another means to reach their own end.


The film seems to serve as a flawed morality tale; teaching a woman the importance of life and the emotional impact experienced as a consequence of abortion.


The Waiting City seemed like a purgatory for the main couple who had to learn the errors of their ways before leaving and living a more substantial married life once back in Australia. It showed India to be a self-service one-stop-shop for religious refill and spiritual enlightenment.


That being said, the shots of India are wonderful. It seemed like the second-unit director was filming a great looking documentary to be viewed on an Imax screen. The shots are very tight, however this serves the viewpoint of the constricted view a tourist has of a new, unfamiliar foreign land.




It is not a good sign when you are watching a movie not only for the scenic shots, but also due to the examination of the quality of a RED camera.


1 out of 5 arms of Lord Shiva.


Check out the film on IMDB, see what Margaret and David have to say and check out the trailer. 



                                                                                                                      Luke McWilliams August 2010

11 responses
I don't understand what you mean by this statement...

"It is not a good sign when you are watching a movie not only for the scenic shots, but also due to the examination of the quality of a RED camera."

Are you a film student?

Hello Denson,

Thank you for reading the review!

I am not a film student but a film enthusiast.

In regard to the film in question, to be clearer, I found myself watching the cinematography and the technical aspects behind it instead of empathising with the main characters’ plight.

This is in contrast with another Australian film, The Black Balloon, which had great performances from the whole cast, especially the young leads, and was shot beautifully. I followed the characters’ emotional beats and held stake in their situations. I found that film to be a great collaboration of direction, acting, cinematography and musical score.

Well, that is unfortunate that you didn't connect with THE WAITING CITY.

It is interesting, the film has either had people absolutely love the film and really feel moved by it or the polar opposite and people not really get the film and feel the need to pan it. There is no middle ground on this one.

THE WAITING CITY is one of my favorite films to have worked on.

By the way, there was no second unit director.


It is interesting that you say that The Waiting City is polarising, because I took the completely opposite view to Luke and Steven. I really enjoyed the film. I thought that it developed a strong connection with India and the characters and by the end, despite the slightly cliched "happy ending", thought it was a fabulous film.

I'm now going to have to watch The Black Balloon - a film I have wanted to see for a while now!

Incidently, would you mind elaborating as to why you enjoyed working on The Waiting City in particular?


P.S. The podcast episode which features our discussions in full will be online on Friday from 3.30pm if you're interested in listening to the show!

Pity I missed this one, I will have to go hire this Black Balloon film.
I loved Waiting City, but my boyfriend hated it. Maybe it's a film that you have to be in the mood for.
Keep up the good work! love listening!
Thanks for your reply Denson!

Yes - I know there wasn't a 2nd unit director. It felt to me like I was watching two movies: The Waiting City and also a wonderful looking documentary of India worthy of an Imax screen.

Felix and Liam - watch the Black Balloon ASAP!

Oh, and thanks Claire for your comment!

It does seem to be a polarising one doesn't it?

Hi Felix,

Glad to hear, I really enjoyed THE WAITING CITY because I felt it was a mature, solid moral tale and I found the characters interesting and challenging, I also liked it that the ending wasn't a "cliched happy ending" but a bitter sweet somber one. That would hopefully leave an audience reflecting long after leaving the cinema.

I read the script as being an international story not just an Australian one, interestingly the film has been very well received internationally in North America, Europe and India.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion and for me, I disagree with Luke's statement regarding it feeling like watching two films... after working hard to design a visual language for the film, a colour palette that communicates the emotional journey of the characters and one which evolves over the course of the film I actually feel that the film has a very cohesive and immersive visual style, and the fact that the imagery of Kolkata is "worthy of an IMAX screen" is a part of the technique used to take an audience along for the ride. Perhaps I am too close to it to comment though.

Glad to hear some of you really liked it... why is Luke's opinion the only one represented on THE MOVIE CLUB?

I look forward to hearing the podcast on Friday.

Philippa Martyr summed up the polarized opinions quite well in her review at Quadrant Online, I like what she had to say...

"It’s unusual, I think, to find opinion so polarized about a film in this way. Some respondents have praised the visual beauties and moving story, but others have panned it as a typical example of Australian mediocrity, full of characters in whom no one was actually very interested, dumped in a token and stereotyped Indian setting to render it more palatable. 

I went to see it the other night, and my two cents’ worth is that The Waiting City is a very good movie – and I mean good in a moral sense, not just its aesthetic. It is visually beautiful; director Claire McCarthy makes full use of the vivid palette of colours, sights (and smells) of Calcutta. But it’s more than that, and it’s clearly disturbed some viewers and made them uncomfortable in ways that they are not prepared to acknowledge just yet. 

I think it is a mistake to see this as just a story about an Australian couple (played by Radha Mitchell and Joel Edgerton) who want to adopt an Indian baby. If you do, then you will certainly see the central characters as two-dimensional and the story contrived, and you will be bitterly disappointed. But it’s not a documentary; it’s a morality play and a parable, and its characters are caught up in a drama which extends well beyond them and their petty, pampered and irritable lives. In fact, the drama into which the facile and foolish Fiona and Ben stumble is one which is genuinely transcendental, mystical and metaphysical."

This is Lukes review, generally we punch it out in the studio.