Set and filmed in Brunswick, a Melbourne suburb, it deals with a humble chef, Carl (Neill) who gets a job at a sleazy nightclub owned by Yanni Voulgaris (Nicholas Papademetriou). He begins a relationship with the Greek-Australian barmaid, Sophie (Zoe Carides), which soon brings him into trouble with his employers and her strict father. His drug dealing Turkish-Australian co-worker, Mustafa (Nick Lathouris), is beaten up by the Greek-Australian owners. Thinking Carl told them, Mustafa attacks Carl. Carl accidentally stabs and kills him.
He calls his friend, Dave (Clarke), a grave digger, and they bury Mustafa. This leads to one of the most famous scenes in the film—Dave's idea that they bury the body in the opened grave of someone else whose husband will be buried above her the following day. Dave expects the coffin of the deceased to be comparatively empty, given how long it has been since she died. When he finds that the rate of decomposition is not what he expects, he begins to stomp and crush her body to make some room.
Later, Mustafa's wife and son come to the restaurant and ask Carl if they know what happened to Mustafa. Carl denies having any knowledge and is wracked with guilt. He gives Mustafa's pay to his wife, even though Dave tells him that it might make him suspect. Later Mustafa's son sees him at a pool with Sophie. Knowing that Sophie is also having a relationship with one of the Greek owners, Mustafa's Turkish friends confront Carl.
Believing the Greek owners to be responsible, they get their revenge on them, ironically killing the one who was originally responsible for beating Mustafa in the first place. Carl leaves his job and is later comforted when he sees Mustafa in the church (albeit, in a dream) who offers him a friendly handshake. After his domineering mother suffers a stroke and is left a quadraplegic, Carl marries Sophie, despite her father's protests and the final scene from their wedding is reminiscent of the Last Supper.Zoe Carides as Sophie Papafagos
John Clarke as Dave
Yvonne Lawley as Mrs Fitzgerald
Sam Neill as Carl Fitzgerald
Nicholas Papademetriou as Yanni Voulgaris
The film was shot from 15 January to 5 March 1990.
Original Music Score Composed and Produced by New Zealand-born musician Philip Judd.
David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz, film critics for The Movie Show awarded the film four-and-a-half stars out of five. Stratton described the film as "a black comedy which isn't afraid to take risks, to shift moods, to push to the limit".
Sydney Morning Herald film critic, Rob Lowing praised the performances of Sam Neill, Zoe Carides and John Clarke. Lowing described the film as "a gem of a black comedy and certainly the best that Australia has produced in years".
Death in Brunswick grossed $2,725,169 at the box office in Australia, which is equivalent to $4,305,767 in 2009 dollars.