Paper Champions {Melbourne International Film Festival} – Film Review

Paper Champions is an uplifting Australian comedy drama that tells the story of Rey (Luke Saliba) who is looking for his ‘Mana’, which in Polynesian cultures roughly translates to having confidence and strength.

Rey does the same thing every day. He cycles to work on his bike every morning, he stops at the same local milk bar and purchases the same food. He works for an office supplies company and while at work, Rey meets local nurse Holly (Tessa De Josselin), who Rey fall head over heels for.

In an effort to find his Mana to win over Holly, Rey will seek some assistance from his work colleague and best friend Wade (John Tui), his next door neighbour and his Mother’s partner Terry (Gary Sweet) who will use different techniques to help Rey in his search for Mana.

While Paper Champions is by no means a groundbreaking film, it is a sweet story that has a lot of heart and some genuinely funny moments. The casting is superb in this film. Tessa De Josselin is believable as Rey‘s love interest Holly because she is a fun and very likeable character. John Tui and Gary Sweet bring a lot of the laughs to the film when they are attempting to help Rey find his Mana. Last but certainly not least, Luke Saliba not only co-wrote the film but he also stars as the main character, doing an incredible job being the leading man of the film. Saliba managers to find a way to still be interesting and likeable, even though his character is placid for the majority of the film.

Paper Champions also manages to use different types of humour; Rey‘s character uses deadpan and awkward humour, while Wade is happy-go-lucky and his enthusiasm to assist Rey with his Mana has some hilarious results. Finally, Gary Sweet’s Terry is a friendly character but can also be very intense. There are some very funny moments when Terry is trying to help Rey find his Mana in his own unique way. I think with three of the main actors using different styles of comedy, they all successfully blend together it helps keep the film’s spirit interesting and unique.

Paper Champions is not only uplifting and fun, but it will teach you an important message that you don’t have to change who you are to find the best version of yourself, as the best version of yourself is within you all along – you just might need to find it.

Paper Champions will be playing will be playing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival, which will be screening digitally from the 6th until the 23rd of August 2020.

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