Girl Asleep, 2015

You know when you see a film & it reminds you why you love cinema & you’re excited about that love and about cinema all over again? Girl Asleep, directed by Rosemary Myers, did that for me.


It’s an impressive debut feature from Myers, who made the jump from theatre to film with Girl Asleep. I’d been kicking myself for not seeing it at least year’s Adelaide Film Festival (where it won the People’s Choice for best feature) so went to see it ASAP after it got a general release here. And I’m so glad I did. It’s my favourite film of the year. I was totally enchanted by this strange little world full of loveable weirdos. (Eliott, who is completely adorable, reminded me of a boy I went to high school with .)

Set in the ’70s it’s perfectly designed (and filmed in 1:1) from costumes to sets – the school reminded both myself and my friend of our own respective high schools. It was that blend of familiarity (the settings, finding people I know in the characters, the experiences) with the absurd and fantasy that drew me in so fully. And I always love seeing Adelaide on film.

It’s surreal, but full of heart and imagination, with not a little whimsy. It’s also hilarious (with no shortage of visual gags) and delves into the darker interior world of being an awkward teenage girl, of being an outsider. It’s quite different in (current) Australian film with its stylised nature and influences from the likes of Wes Anderson to David Lynch. In some ways, for me, it harks back to the sensibility of Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding, with larger than life characters, who don’t become caricatures. They are still relatable.

Bethany Whitmore is fantastic in the lead role as Greta with her almost permanently perplexed expression. She’s very easy to relate to. And the rest of the cast , including the trio of mean girls, round out this world created by Myers and writer Matthew Whittet (who also plays Greta’s father) to perfection.

The dream/fantasy sequence was a little jarring at first but I quite liked that jump because dreams, themselves, can be so jarring. I liked the little bits of fantasy woven throughout the rest of the narrative, too. And the intertitles! I loved those. Very cleverly done.

This is one of those frustrating times where my limited writing skills really let me down because I just can’t articulate what I love about this movie but if you get a chance to see it, please do. I meant to post this much earlier, when it was still screening here, but life and other things got in the way (which is also why this isn’t as different from my letterboxd review as I was aiming for it to be). This is one I’m looking forward to revisiting.



Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, 2016

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, directed by Mandie Fletcher, is based on the TV show Absolutely Fabulous, created by Jennifer Saunders. I grew up on Ab Fab and various other British sitcoms, whether or not they were ‘appropriate’ for my age. (Many, such as this, likely weren’t, but I enjoyed them). I have a huge soft spot for Eddy (Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) and everyone else in their world, so I was tentatively looking forward to this film.


I had a feeling this wouldn’t blow me away, and it didn’t, but it was fun enough and not as terrible as many have found it to be.

When the jokes fall flat they fall right on their face, much as Eddy herself is prone to do. Some of the ‘jokes’ were just outright offensive (which isn’t surprising), and obviously trying to keep the humour ‘up to date’, but there were a lot of good laughs, too. Ab Fab is really better in the format of a TV show – the humour doesn’t stretch well enough over a feature – but the slapstick and parody that I love kept me interested.


It was fun to see all the old familiar faces, including my favourite Bubble (played brilliantly by Jane Horrocks) and Magda, Fleur and Catriona are always good for a laugh, as is Mrs Monsoon. Julia Sawalha returns as Eddy’s long-suffering daughter, Saffy, still as square as ever, the perfect foil to Eddy.

My favourite thing about Eddy is that she’ll have these revelatory moments (usually brought about by Saffy, who is her voice of reason and conscience, the angel on her shoulder, with Patsy being the devil on her other shoulder) but she never really changes or learns.

I don’t know why I love that about her. In another kind of show, it could be frustrating – that there’s no character growth (though we see she isn’t as shallow as she seems and she does love Saffy), but in a sitcom, it feels welcome.


And I know I’m meant to laugh at Eddy’s over-the-top outfits but, honestly, I would definitely wear some of her ensembles. (Or if I were brave enough, I would).

I’ll always love Patsy and Eddy and I definitely enjoyed the film but, I will say, I do hope it’s their last hurrah.

Originally posted on letterboxd.

Advantageous, 2015


Advantageous, directed by Jennifer Phang, is a quietly impactful film that has a lot to say about gender, ageism and race. It does this through the narrative of  main character, Gwen (Jacqueline Kim), a woman who is forced to go to drastic measures after she is fired from the Center For Advanced Living and Health, when they decide to go in a younger direction for their public face.


Kim is magnificent as Gwen, giving a restrained, poignant performance, and it’s just a crime she’s not starring in more features. (Kim also co-wrote the script with director Jennifer Phang). Freya Adams, who plays Gwen 2.0, is convincing as a woman struggling to adjust to who she is, disconnected from everything and everyone around her, from her own body (which betrays her, causes her pain).

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It has a very touching mother/daughter relationship at its centre (Gwen is motivated by doing what’s best for her daughter’s future, wanting to secure her a position in an elite school), which will always draw me in. There are some achingly beautiful moments between Gwen and her daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim). They are the heart of the film. Family is a theme that runs through the story, as Gwen tries to reconnect with a cousin, wants her help so she will not have to go through with the procedure. She doesn’t get the help she wants when she needs it but the family does tentatively reconnect.

It’s slick and stylish and very understated in its vision of a dystopian future, using cool tones and lots of light to make the world outside feel sterile. Gwen and Jules’s apartment is snug and cosy, by contrast. I love my sci-fi (nearly) any way I can get it, but it’s quiet, thoughtful films like this that get under my skin and stay with me. Some of the points it makes are, perhaps, a little obvious but sometimes I think plain speak is better than a whole heap of metaphors and allusions.

There is hope in the ending, for Gwen and Jules and their family, at least, but the uneasiness that permeates the film is not resolved. It is still there in the others who have undergone the same procedure, if you think about the implications of being able to transfer consciousness from one body to another, discarding ‘undesirable’ bodies for more socially acceptable ones. It’s a terrifying thought.

It was released exclusively to Netflix, so if you have an account, definitely check it out. (I’m assuming it’s on Netflix in all regions).




Mustang, 2015


The spiritual cousin to The Virgin Suicides, Mustang, directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, is a stunning and haunting film that is currently my favourite release of the year. It takes place in a remote Turkish village and centres on the lives of five young sisters, who live with their grandmother, and the hurdles they face navigating life under the restrictive rules of patriarchy. At the beginning of the film the sisters are playing a game with some local boys, the consequences of which are dire and the catalyst for the rest of the movie: they are imprisoned in their own home, not even let out for school.

From here, the film is frustrating and freeing by turns as we see the girls rebelling, striving for freedom, but almost always thwarted by their family. It feels more like a series of vignettes, thread together both thematically and by pivoting around the sisters, than a traditional beginning, middle, end structure.


The scenes of the girls playing, finding ways to entertain themselves (reminiscent of the previously mentioned The Virgin Suicides), protecting each other, growing frustrated with each other, and so on are lovely and very real. It is easy to empathise with the girls, not just because of the extremity of their situation, but because of the moments like these. All of the young actresses playing the sisters are fantastic, particularly Lale (Günes Sensoy).


Unlike The Virgin Suicides, in Mustang we get very close to the sisters, we’re not removed by way of seeing them through someone else’s eyes. They’re not unsolvable mysteries here – they’re girls with all that entails. They’re real.

I like that some of the shocking moments and revelations play out offscreen or are just hinted at – it increases the uneasiness having to piece it together for yourself, having to speculate, think ‘is that what’s really happening?’ It also plays out this way because the film is largely seen from Lale’s point of view and so we are mostly privy to what she sees and hears. I wondered, at times, how much she understands, herself. (We do see scenes from other points of view, but not often).


It does a good job of showing how sexualised girls’ bodies, girls’ actions, are, too. As previously mentioned, the girls are locked in their own home for playing a perfectly innocent game but, because they were sitting on boys’ shoulders, they are accused, among other things, of ‘pleasuring themselves’. The girls are mortified, indignant, at the accusation. It makes me think of all the times I’ve heard people say young girls shouldn’t wear certain clothes, shouldn’t dance certain ways, and so on, because they’re too ‘sexy’. How twisted is the world when it’s acceptable for adults to deem a child’s clothing or behaviour ‘sexy’ or sexual, often for the mere fact of her gender? But the film also shows that the girls don’t necessarily view their own bodies that way. For them, lounging in their underwear or bathers (as above) is just comfortable and playing a game is just playing a game. (Not to say that they are desexualised completely, either, but the point is still made that girls are sexualised, by the world outside, from a young age).


I can’t write up a review without mentioning the cinematography and I have to say that it is breathtaking. I need to watch it again to appreciate it fully, as I had to concentrate on the subtitles, but it’s a beautifully photographed movie. There are a lot of tight shots of the girls together, highlighting their claustrophobic situation (both by being locked in literally by their family, and trapped by the rules of patriarchy) but it is not without breathing room.

The ending has been described as ‘too neat’ by some but after everything that happened in the film, it was more than welcome. I don’t want to give anything away, but it bothers me that hopeful endings are seen as unrealistic. I think they can be, but here it felt right and important (though it is not without its ambiguity, in my opinion). And it moved me, which is certainly not a bad thing.

If you haven’t seen Mustang, yet, it’s a must-see and currently screening in select cinemas around Australia.







South Solitary, 2010

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Set in 1928, South Solitary (directed by Shirley Barrett) centres on Meredith (Miranda Otto), an unmarried woman in her mid-30s who accompanies her cantankerous uncle (Barry Otto) to the eponymous island when he takes up his post as head lighthouse keeper.

Their new neighbours are as frigid as the weather, though Meredith does begin to forge a tentative friendship with Nettie (Annie Martin), the daughter of Alma and Harry Stanley (Essie Davis and Rohan Nichol) and Harry, himself, is friendly and flirty from the outset. Not much is seen of Mr Fleet (Marton Csokas) until later in the film, but his seeming prickliness rankles Meredith.

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The entire cast is very good and Miranda Otto is excellent in the lead as the insecure, affection-starved Meredith. Csokas’s Welsh accent leaves something to be desired – I’m not sure why he couldn’t have just been from New Zealand, exactly – but it’s not so bad that it distracts from the story nor does it distract from his compassionate performance as the shell-shocked Mr Fleet.

What could be a dour or sombre story is lightened by moments of humour and I found myself laughing out loud quite frequently, mostly at something strange one of the characters had said or done.

The film is at its best in the second half when Meredith and Mr Fleet are together and I almost wish the first half had been shorter so we could spend more time with them getting to know each other, forging their companionship. At 120 minutes it could have easily been shorter but the pacing is generally very nice and I didn’t find myself getting restless as I often do with longer films.

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The love story is very real and charming. It’s lovely to watch it unfold. There is a natural awkwardness to their relationship that I enjoyed a lot. And Mr Fleet does embroidery! Be still my heart. This isn’t a typical period drama romance, it is quiet and restrained, but it is all the more charming for it. I will always feel fondly toward films about two people who have nowhere else to go, nowhere to fit in the world, finding each other.

South Solitary has been on my watchlist since it was first out at the cinema. I wish I had seen it back then as the cinematography, by Anna Howard, is just gorgeous. It would’ve been better served by the big screen than my small, outdated analogue TV but the experience was by no means ruined. The costumes are great, too.


All in all, it’s a nice little film and if it sounds even remotely interesting to anyone, I’d recommend it. Plus there is a sheep in a baby bonnet. If that doesn’t entice you to check it out, I don’t know what will!

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