Tim (1979) starring Piper Laurie, Mel Gibson, Alwyn Kurts, Pat Evison, Peter Gwynne, Deborah Kennedy directed by Michael Pate Movie Review

Tim (1979)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Mel Gibson as Tim Melville in Tim (1979)

Complicated Love Made Simple

The first time I read the synopsis to "Tim" I thought this was going to be an Australian take on Douglas Sirk's magnificent "All That Heaven Allows". It certainly sounds like Sirk's movie with its story which sees middle aged business woman Mary befriending Tim a twenty something handyman who tends her garden. It even has elements where society is suspicious of this friendship, suspecting that maybe Mary is using the simple minded Tim. But "Tim" is more than just about the relationship between Mary and Tim, it's about Tim growing up to be a person in his own right and it is a marvellous and sadly under-rated movie featuring Piper Laurie and Mel Gibson.

Middle aged business woman Mary Horton (Piper Laurie - Carrie) hires 24 year old Tim Melville (Mel Gibson - Signs) to work her garden and soon discovers that whilst Tim has the handsome physique of a twenty year old he has the unaffected mind and enthusiasm of a child. Refreshed by Tim's innocence they become friends with Tim spending the weekends with Mary at her beech house, helping to tidy it up whilst Mary teaches Tim to read. But their friendship causes talk as people wonder whether Mary is taking advantage of the innocent Tim and Tim's own sister becomes jealous of their friendship.

Piper Laurie as Mary Horton in Tim (1979)

"Tim" is an Australian movie and for the first 15 minutes or so you are distracted by the differences, such as Tim's father Ron and his attitude to his wife. And you are also distracted by a young Mel Gibson in the tightest denim shorts you will ever see, ironically he pulls the look off. But whilst all this is going on we also learn all about Tim, a 24 year old who still has the mind of a child. He can't really think for himself, has to ask his father's permission, gets excitable and like a child likes sweet things but he is also used by the labourers he works with.

Now in a way "Tim" leads us into a semi false sense of what is to follow because we watch as Mary employs Tim to tend her garden and slowly over time become good friends with Mary enjoying Tim's youthful enthusiasm and innocence whilst also teaching him to read. This sense of being lead to think certain things comes from the closeness of their friendships, like a child Tim tells Mary he really likes her whilst it is obvious Mary cares deeply for him, constantly doing the right thing by him and his family by asking their permission for him to spend time working for her often at her beach home for whole weekends at a time. You also get a sense that Mary is also attracted to Tim, she even comments that he is good looking to a special needs teacher and there are some surprisingly sensual scenes pulsating with electricity as they talk, their faces just a few inches away and you wonder whether Mary will try and kiss him.

Now in a predictable way this leads to some people passing judgement on them, Tim's sister is suspicious of Mary's interest in Tim and also jealous that he wants to spend so much time with her. There are others as well but there is a nice twist on this as we watch how Tim's father Ron deals with the situation.

The thing is that this is just part of the movie because there is drama which follows all of which leads to Tim growing up, getting a better understanding of life whilst still maintaining that childhood innocence. Tempers flare, there are both emotional and touching scenes not just between Mary and Tim but also Tim and his father and basically you are taken on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride as these dramas appear.

What makes "Tim" so good is that it is full of seriously good performances and before getting to Piper Laurie and Mel Gibson both Alwyn Kurts and Pat Evison deserve praise for playing Tim's parents, two almost caricatures but also two people who you can feel how much they love Tim and just want what is best for him. But it is Piper Laurie and Mel Gibson who are the heart of this touching drama and both deliver knockout performances. Laurie as Mary gets across the conflict she has as she grows fond of Tim controlling her feelings towards this sensitive and inexperienced young man whilst Gibson delivers every ounce the excitement and innocence of a child in a man's body. Just watching him bound around and not taking no for an answer is a sheer delight but so are the more touching moments as Mary teaches him about life.

What this all boils down to is that "Tim" is a very good drama and one which deserves a lot more attention and praise than it gets. It may start out with a storyline not to dissimilar to Douglas Sirk's "All That Heaven Allows" but it evolves into something more, something which is touching on different levels.