The easiest barb to direct at Brendan Cowell’s Ruben Guthrie is that it’s another Aussie film about the problems of rich white blokes (see also: Little Death, The/Any Questions for Ben?). This isn’t technically incorrect; the titular protagonist is, indeed, a wealthy white dude (Patrick Brammall). But the screenplay’s real concerns aren’t so much the challenges at his upscale advertising firm, nor with his Eastern-European model girlfriend (Abbey Lee, with an extremely dubious accent); rather, Ruben Guthrie’s aim is to interrogate Australia’s celebratory and fundamentally toxic drinking culture, by telling the story of an alcoholic Guthrie’s attempts to spend a year sober.
That proves especially difficult given the plaintive – and implausibly exaggerated – attempts of his friends (Alex Dimitriades) and family (Robyn Nevin, Jack Thompson) to enable his alcoholism. When Ruben’s boss tells him that he’s only creative drunk, I buy it. When his mum – the one who dragged him to AA in this first place – literally pours wine into his mouth, I’m less convinced. Equally unconvincing: the film’s undercooked female characters. Ruben Guthrie’s objective – to shine a light on Australia’s problem with alcohol – is admirable; however, its one-note execution is so diluted that the film ultimately loses its potency.