Helen Morse and Robert Taylor will join Reef Ireland and Kerry Fox in Downriver, an Australian mystery drama that aims to court controversy.

The feature debut of writer-director Grant Scicluna, the film is due to start shooting in Victoria on November 5.

Ireland (Puberty Blues, Wentworth, Blessed) will play James, a teenager who is sent to prison for drowning a little boy when he was a child, although the body was never found.

In an attempt to uncover the truth, he takes dangerous risks to find redemption and return the missing body to the grieving mother.

Fox plays his mother. Taylor, who stars in US TV’s Longmire, is cast as her new boyfriend who is unaware she has a son. Morse is a reclusive dog lover who holds the key to the mystery.

It’s a rare screen role for Morse, who has worked almost exclusively on the stage since her breakthrough roles in Picnic at Hanging Rock and Caddie in the mid-1970s. Her last film was Fred Schepisi’s The Eye of the Storm in 2011 and she had a guest role in The Doctor Blake Mysteries this year.

“She really responded to the script and she loves the character,” Scicluna told IF. Also cast is Thom Green, who plays the young antagonist.

The producer, Happening Films’ Jannine Barnes, tells IF the film was in development for 10 years and gained momentum after being selected for Screen Australia’s Springboard program in 2011.

The investors are Screen Australia, Film Victoria and the MIFF Premiere Fund, plus nearly $43,000 from a Pozible crowdfunding campaign. Rialto will release in Australia and LevelK will handle international sales.

Ireland played a juvenile inmate who is torn between the chance for freedom and protecting the one he loves in The Wilding, a 2012 short written and directed by Scicluna and produced by Barnes, which screened in competition at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The director said, “I am aiming to make an edgy, controversial thriller. There will be some confronting content as the film deals with sexual manipulation and sexual power.

“Some sequences will be story boarded but there will be a lot of dramatic scenes which you can’t overplay so we will plan them with the actors and see where that takes us.”

The crew includes DoP Laszlo Baranyai, sound designer Emma Bortignon, editor Anthony Cox and composers Groove Quantize.

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