Directed by: Luke Davies
Distributed by: Dendy Films
Written by Livvy O’Brien
A love triangle between a couple and their drugs, “Candy,” directed by Neil Armstrong, follows the twisted romance of Candy (Abbie Cornish), an art student, who falls for Dan (Heath Ledger), a part-time poet – full-time junkie. Broken up into a three-structured film, which depicts the three phases of their undoing, Candy and Dan’s story is symbolised through “heaven”, “earth” and “hell”, which establishes the tone for each chapter. On the surface, the concept of the film can be considered typical: Junkie meets a clean girl, girl’s parents don’t like the junkie, and they both become addicts; but what differentiates “Candy” from similar films is how intense, heartbreaking, and raw it is. This feature is a book adaptation of author Luke Davies’ semi-autobiographical novel with the same title, where he explores the mutually destructive nature of heroin and relationships. (Davies collaborated with Armstrong on the screenplay, and makes a sneaky cameo as the milkman.)
“heaven” represents the high that Candy and Dan feel, figuratively and metaphorically. They’ve reached the peak of their love for each other and the peak of their addiction, yet it’s the beginning of their inevitable downfall. And as you can imagine, “earth” is their reality check, as they are on the comedown of being in “heaven”. Then there’s “hell”. I’m sure you can put two and two together to understand why this part is called “hell”. A quote from Dan in this segment that stuck with me is “I wasn’t trying to wreck Candy’s life, I was trying to make mine better”. Dan takes accountability early on in his and Candy’s relationship for selfishly inflicting this damaging lifestyle on her, however, he admits that it didn’t come from a place of malice. He questions whether he would rather live in hell with Candy, or go their separate ways to live a more stable but mediocre life without each other.
An apt quote to sum up Candy and Dan’s sense of youthful narcissism occurs just after they’re married when they go into Mcdonald’s and share some drinks. As they look around at customers, Candy whispers to Dan, “We’re the coolest people in McDonald’s”.
What ultimately makes this film commemorable is the stunning cinematography and stellar performances. It’s hard to describe how real and raw the acting is but let me put it this way. You know when you’re watching a film and then you suddenly snap out of the trance that consumes you when escaping through a movie, and then you realise that these characters that you’re watching on screen are real people that are simply acting? I had the complete opposite experience while watching “Candy. ” It in no way glamourises drug use. In fact, the viewing experience conveys quite the opposite. You can feel the intense emotions through the screen, transcending the audience into the places of Candy and Dan.
At the peak of his career, Ledger decided to take on this little Australian indie film and he certainly brought justice to it. Cornish too. In an interview with Ledger, he mentioned that he enjoyed making this film because he got to use his normal accent which in turn gave him more range to do the things that he wanted for his character. He also stated that he wanted to do more Australian projects, but unfortunately, this was his last one.
“Candy (2006)” Trailer
You can follow Livvy O’Brien on Letterboxd.