5:15 PM, Saturday 30 April
Premiere: Introduced by Ray Argall and Lucinda Clutterbuck

3:15 PM, Monday 02 May

Randwick Ritz

Director: Ray Argall
Country: Australia
Year: 1989
Runtime: 87 minutes
Rating: M
Language: English



A divorced insurance broker in Melbourne returns home to Adelaide where his brother and wife are running a garage in a suburban shopping centre, struggling against American franchises and the loss of customer service.

Director and writer Ray Argall (also an accomplished cinematographer and editor), juxaposes the mechanic’s struggle against this erosive economic ‘progress’ and shows how working families are threatened by this new consumerism.

Screens with Lucinda Clutterbuck’s 10-minute animation Tiga – the original support film for Return Home at its first commercial screening in 1990.

“[Return Home’s] opening makes us immediately consider what we are looking at – images of people on suburban Adelaide beaches, playing cricket, being pulled over by police, fluffy dice, and, most substantively, driving and working on hotted-up cars – asking us to reassess conventional and expected ways of representing class, everydayness and popular culture…[an] almost Ozu-like opening sequence.”  –  Adrian Danks

Watch the Restoration Trailer

Introduced by the film-makers Ray Argall and Lucinda Clutterbuck.

By Scott Murray

Ray Argall: 
In 1973 at Brinsley Road, an experimental annex of Camberwell High School, there was a Friday-afternoon film class. I recall that the first movie screened there was a 16mm print of John Ford’s The Searchers, though the projectionist (14-year-old Richard Lowenstein) thinks it could have been Intolerance, which I apparently “insisted it be played at 18 frames per second, which we managed to achieve, even though it made it go on for hours”.

Among the teenagers lying tolerantly on the beanbags and floor were several more future filmmakers, including Ray Argall, Ned Lander, Daniel Scharf, Sharon Connolly, Trevor Graham, Tarni James and Lisa Roberts.

When not teaching mathematics and Formal Logic, I was the film teacher. I had no idea so many would become significant creative figures, and I had nothing to do with it, but every success they had, and continue to have, gives me great joy.

As for Ray Argall, after he left Brinsley Road he went to the Australian Film, Radio and Television School (AFTRS):

“I was there for three years and made one film, Dog Food, which I really like. It is one of the few   films where I felt I’d achieved what I set out to do. It was probably quite influenced by the fact         [producer] John Cruthers and I used to watch a lot of Bresson and Ozu films.”

On graduating from AFTRS, Ray returned to Melbourne and worked as a sound editor, before entering the emerging field of music videos:

“There were quite a few independent filmmakers around, and they tended to slip in and out doing     them. There was Richard Lowenstein, Andrew de Groot, John Hillcoat, Paul Goldman and               Evan English, all out of the Swinburne Film and Television School.”

Ray also began shooting other people’s features, including by Ian Pringle (Wronsky, The Plains of Heaven, Wrong World and The Prisoner of St Petersburg), Mary Callaghan (Tender Hooks) and Philip Brophy (Salt, Saliva, Sperm and Sweat).

With Andrew de Groot, Mandy Walker and Sally Bongers, Ray headed a new wave of Australian cinematographers, but his interests lay wider than that. He also edited other people’s films, including three features (The Plains of Heaven, Wrong World and Brian McKenzie’s With Love to the Person Next to Me, which Argall also shot).

In 1990, Ray wrote and directed his first feature, Return Home, one of the finest Australian films made in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Two years later, he made his second feature, Eight Ball, which, like Return Home, was shot by Mandy Walker.

Soon after, Ray would shoot McKenzie’s Stan and George’s New Life, Brophy’s Body Melt and Sarah Watt’s Look Both Ways.

Ray’s most recent film is the 2018 feature documentary Midnight Oil: 1984, incorporating some of the music videos that helped forge his now 48-year career. His production company, Piccolo Films, has also notably branched out into film restoration.

In 2019, Ray was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant services to film and television as a director and cinematographer.

The Film:

“When I first wrote it, the characters were even older. Maybe that came from observing a lot of people in that age group who had reached the point of not knowing where to go with their lives. I felt I was in the middle, between the young petrol-head apprentice and the two older brothers. Progress has a momentum that cannot be stopped. In the years to come, people will probably look back and say, “Gee, I miss that little garage that used to be on the corner. Those people were really nice to me.”
– Ray Argall

Return Home is the story of one man’s coming to terms with the past, and the responsibility and rewards of family love.

Noel (Dennis Coard) is in his late thirties, a successful insurance broker in Melbourne who one summer heads home to the Adelaide suburb of his childhood. He stays with his elder brother, Steve (Frankie J. Holden), Steve’s wife Judy (Micki Camilleri) and their two children.

Steve runs a garage opposite a small shopping strip that is going backwards financially in the age of American franchises and a dearth of customer service. He is a gifted mechanic with a real love of his job, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Both he and his ideals appear to be on borrowed time.

Ray sets up his tale – of the negative forces of progress held tentatively at bay by one man’s inherent goodness – as a metaphor of Australian society. Values are changing in the face of altering consumer demand: local shopping strips are being replaced by impersonal supermarkets and a wasteland of drive-in food and video marts. Generations of Australian consumerism and service are linked with generations of family.

Ray begins Return Home with a brief scene of Noel, Judy and Steve in their late teens, when the local paperboy was an impish boy named Gary. Gary is now an apprentice mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn), when not away and fretting about his stalling relationship with Rachel Rains’ Wendy. Steve is his struggling boss and Noel the émigré who left family and home.

But Noel soon senses within himself emotional changes set off by the economic and social changes around him, and, when he returns to his Melbourne office, a once seemingly unimportant family snapshot is now resonantly imbued with meaning. One senses a stand is about to be made.

The film is simply but masterfully directed (Argall only tracks when he really needs to), with a subtle and affecting screenplay, and an understated level of performance that is rare in Australian film.

As soon as I saw it, I put it in my Top 10 Australian Films.

It is still there.

Notes by Scott Murray (drawn in part from “Ray Argall: Return Home: Report and Interview”, Cinema Papers, No. 78, March 1990).

The Restoration:
Ray Argall writes: The Return Home restoration has been a labour of love, it was one of the first films I started to restore over ten years ago. Since then there has been so much change and evolution in the digital environment that the restoration work has been reinvented several times. We scanned the camera original negative, then matched the A&B rolls which required a lot of stabilisation on the cement splices, then did a shot by shot grade and a painful amount of dust busting. For the soundtrack we digitised the original 3 track 35mm magnetic mix into separate DME (Dialogue Music Effects) tracks. We then replaced all the music with digital stereo versions of the original music stems and created a 5.1 digital sound master. Greg P Fitzgerald did the remix from mono and stereo stems to the new digital 5.1 master. Our original restoration master was in 2K and presented at MIFF 2019. Last year I went back to the original scans and restored the picture to a 4K master, which is having its first public screening at Cinema Reborn.


Dir: Ray ARGALL | Australia | 1990 | 87 mins | 2K DCP (orig. 35mm release from 16mm camera original) | Colour | 1.85:1 |  Mono Sound | English | (M).

Production Company: Musical Films | Producer: Cristana POZZAN| Script: ARGALL | Photography: Mandy WALKER | Editor: Ken SALLOWS | Production Design: Kerith HOLMES | Sound: Bronwyn MURPHY | Music: Philip JUDD | Costumes: Lucinda CLUTTERBUCK.

Cast: Dennis COAD(‘Noel’), Frankie J. HOLDEN(‘Steve’), Ben MENDELSOHN (‘Gary’), Mickey CAMILLERI (‘Judy’), Rachel RAINS (‘Wendy’), Alan FLETCHER (‘Barry’), Joe CAMILLERI (‘Busker’).

Source: Piccolo Films.


Dir: Lucinda CLUTTERBUCK | Australia | 1987 | 10 mins | Colour | DCP (orig. 16mm) | Mono Sound | English | (M).

Production Companies: Piccolo Films, Australian Film Commission | Producer: Lucinda CLUTTERBUCK| Script: Lucinda CLUTTERBUCK | Animation: Elisa ARGENZIO, CLUTTERBUCK.

Source: Piccolo Films.

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