Eleven years ago in an unnamed, impoverished city in Eastern Europe, Gregori (Vincent Cassel) built a hidden commune within a secluded, abandoned housing estate. On the day Alexander was born, Gregori convinced unwed mother Susanna (Florence Mazzara) to join him. In the decade since, other 'wives' have joined, and today their numbers have bolstered to quite the ‘family’, living in apparent pacifist harmony. But beneath the hippie façade there’s rigid structure in place, where some bizarre values are being taught and others are being avoided altogether. As Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) begins to grow up and become curious about the much frowned-upon outside world, he begins to question Gregori’s authority and perspective, which have been drilled into him with rewards of gold stars and karaoke.

PARTISAN is the debut feature from Australian director Ariel Kleiman, co-written by himself and partner Sarah Cyngler (who also worked on the film’s excellent production design). Their script initially throws up a solid array of interesting ideas, and Kleiman’s ‘show don’t tell’ direction starts off impressively enough, steadily revealing fascinating details in the first half. Unfortunately it's not sustained, and in later scenes - despite impressive performances from Cassel and Chabriel - too many loose threads and unanswered questions eventually leave PARTISAN feeling at once frustratingly under-explored and drawn out, like a 50 minute short stretched to feature length. There are enough positives to make this worthwhile for the curious though, and certainly enough to mark its creative team as one to watch.

PARTISAN is released May 28 in Australia.