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Movie review: Thicker Than Water is about a sister struggling to keep her family together
Australia's Mad Lane Productions' film Thicker Than Water is about a sister struggling to keep her brothers together when the eldest, a recovering drug addict, returns from rehab.

Nearly everyone can relate to sibling squabbles but Ludmiller (played by Ellie Popov) has her hands full with the men in her family. Thicker Than Water is a large ensemble film containing notable actors like Dave Beamish of Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Anthony Brandon Wong (known for his work in the Warner Bros massive hit Matrix films (cumulative gross exceeding $1 Billion)), and Brad McMurray of the Australian TV institution Neighbors, but it's Josh Kieser as Chris Townsend who has been receiving an avalanche of attention.

For all the drama taking place in the family, one might not expect an outsider to have such impact on the story but Kieser's magnetic performance of the troubled young Chris establishes a perfect counterpoint to the sibling turmoil. Chris is a sixteen-year-old Australian boy who lives with his uncle. Far from the label guardian, the uncle has surrounded Chris in an environment of drugs, forced sex, and essentially making his life one consumed by fear. While this young man does his best to keep himself together, the thought of another support system is what he searches for…even one as volatile as the main family in the film.

Ludmiller's family struggles to stay united when the eldest brother D (Pete Murray), a recovering drug addict, returns home. D worked in the illegal drug business with Chris's uncle Nic Townsend. D's own drug problem sent him to rehab for eighteen months, away from his little sister and two younger brothers. The youngest brother, Ivan is best friends with Chris. The craziness which follows D's vocation had dissipated in his absence but returns to the family when he comes home. When D arrives, Nic proposes working together again and the truth about Chris' home life is revealed. As Ludmiller and the family step up to help Chris they risk the ire of Nic.

Josh's deeply moving performance as Chris has been an increasing topic in the press for this award-winning actor (Kieser has received Best Actor awards for his role in the LGBT film Papercut from the Melbourne City Independent Film Awards, Rainbow Umbrella Film Festival, Gold Movie Awards Goddess Nike, and numerous others). The actor's ability to communicate great/quiet intensity is transfixing. Even with just a look or body language, the audience feels the inner turmoil of the constant anguish of Chris. He's trapped and looking for a safe haven of any kind. What Kieser does above all is play Chris in a way that keeps one wondering if he will accept the light he searches for or succumb to the darkness around him. Director Brad McMurray states, "Josh is an amazingly talented performer. He isn't afraid of a challenge. He's always kind and ready for a laugh but you'd never guess that from watching this film. He was able to bring such depth to the role of Chris; it truly made our film exceptional. You can see the dedication to his craft."

Thicker Than Water is surprising in the way that it questions what family means and what family is capable of, both good and bad. It's a story about people you probably don't like or respect and how they choose to redeem themselves or wallow in their own selfishness. It's a reflection of humanity that is challenging and informative.

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