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last update 20.Jul.10
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Between Love & Goodbye
dir-scr Casper Andreas
prd Casper Andreas, Markus Goetze
with Simon Miller, Justin Tensen, Rob Harmon, Jane Elliott, Aaron Michael Davies, Caroline Delran, Filippa Edberg, Ryan Turner, Michelle Akeley, Jared Gertner, Sabrina Samone, Matthew Ludwinski
miller and temsen release US 30.Jan.09,
UK 26.Apr.10
08/US Embrem 1h37
between love & goodbye A year in the life of a gay couple and their friends, this drama suffers from some awkward filmmaking and heavy-handed plotting. But it also touches on recognisable relationship issues, which makes it worth a look.

Kyle (Miller) is a happy New Yorker whose French boyfriend Marcel (Tensen) is marrying his lesbian friend Sarah (Elliott) for a visa. Meanwhile, Kyle is struggling to find an even keel with his moody sister April (Harmon), who's trying to leave her job as a tranny hooker. As Marcel and Sarah prepare for the immigration interview, Kyle and April reform their old band. But all of this puts a strain on Kyle and Marcel's relationship. And it's even harder for April, who decides to go back to being a boy.

Bright and energetic, the film is almost painfully cute, as the well-groomed, loved-up boys gaze into each others' eyes. Yes, the characters are too lean and photogenic to be believable, but this helps obscure the low-budget filmmaking with its tentative direction and clunky editing. The choppy structure makes it difficult for us to engage with the story, which lurches forward through chunks of time and takes some eye-rolling turns.

And the acting is a bit uneven as well, perhaps due to the pushy, sometimes cheesy dialog. Miller is smiley and charming, although Kyle is too waffly to be likeable. Tensen has an even more difficult time with the brooding, pretty boy role, and never develops much personality beyond petulance. Even Harmon isn't really given the chance to develop what's arguably the film's most promising character much further than a well-timed scowl. And the script requires everyone to turn hideously cruel and irrational along the way.

Despite the fragmented and forced central storyline, the film touches on important issues that resonate strongly as we watch real-life problems emerge in even the most solid relationships. There's a refreshing complexity here that just about rises above the increasingly soapy plot. Although April's girl-boy transition is harder to engage with and seems only included to add something edgy to the movie. Writer-director Andreas clearly has skill as a filmmaker; he just needs to trust his material a bit more.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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dir Biju Viswanath
prd Richard Harteis
scr Celia de Freine, Biju Viswanath
with Bristol Pomeroy, Alec Dana, Beth Campbell, Donna Del Bueno, Giovanni Capitello, Beverly Robinson, Fran Tripp, Sharon Griffis, Chris Annino, Lura Hepler, John Noonan, Malin Tybahl
dana and pomeroy release US 2.Mar.10 dvd,
UK 29.Mar.10 dvd
10/US 1h24
marathon Based on the true story of poets Richard Harteis and Pulitzer-winner William Meredith, who were together for 36 years, this film is packed with terrific themes. But it's very poorly made, with clunky writing and direction undermining every scene.

As William (Dana) lies in hospital after a serious stroke in 1983, his partner of 17 years, Richard (Pomeroy), sits at his bedside reminiscing about their life, from their early meetings and growing relationship to running together in parks and on beaches. So Richard refuses to give up hope that William will recover. But the state of Connecticut doesn't recognise Richard as next of kin, so he has to fight for the right to care for his companion with dignity and compassion. As William slowly recovers, Richard decides to train for a marathon.

The script tells the story jarringly out of sequence, jumping through the early years of their relationship, then continuing with Richard's legal battles and William's two-year recovery. Director Viswanath tries to infuse a poetic tone through editing and imagery, but the limited production values make the film feel thin and cheesy. The actors aren't as bad as they seem to be; they're directed to unconvincing performances, with terrible dialog, awkward photography (although some cutaways are beautifully shot) and an uneven sound mix.

That said, there's plenty of material here that's worth seeing. A particularly nasty discussion in which Richard confronts William's bitter sister (Del Bueno) highlights the harsh reality of a society that refuses to recognise some relationships and therefore actually undermines rather than protects or strengthens families. The legal issues are seriously chilling, and the personal story is very moving. And as it progresses, the truth in the events resonates strongly.

The fact that Harteis is a producer here hints that either he wanted to keep control over this material or that Hollywood was afraid to come onboard and properly fund a more professional-quality film. This is a huge shame, because it's such significant material. It really should have been a genuinely powerful film for a wider audience. But as is, we need to endure rather a lot of amateurish filmmaking to get to the raw, important story that's being told.

15 themes, language
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dir-scr Dan Castle
prd Naomi Wenck
with Lachlan Buchanan, Xavier Samuel, Reshad Strik, Kirk Jenkins, Israel Cannan, Ben Milliken, Debra Ades, Rebecca Breeds, Shane Jacobson, Barry Otto, Joy Smithers, Gigi Edgley
jenkins and buchanan release Aus 6.Nov.08,
US 1.May.09, UK 24.May.10 dvd
08/Australia 1h47
newcastle For an Aussie surfing movie, this film is strangely overserious, straining to find emotional resonance in every scene. It never quite manages that, but the characters are engaging enough to keep us watching.

Jesse (Buchanan) is a 17-year-old surfer desperate to join the local Newcastle surfing team. But he feels trapped in the shadow of his big brother Victor (Strik), who's still angry that he had to give up surfing due to an injury. Meanwhile, their younger brother Fergus (Samuel) is the only emo-goth kid in town, so he jumps at a chance to go camping for a weekend in the dunes with Jesse, his pals (Jenkins, Cannen and Milliken) and two girls (Ades and Breeds). Tragedy and romance both arrive unexpectedly.

Filmmaker Castle seems to think that we should be as emotionally involved as he is, even without actually drawing us in. Instead of properly setting up any narrative conflict, he works overtime with music, editing and dialog to crank up the melodrama. But this leaves it feeling more like an underdeveloped TV show than a movie. Fortunately, the editing and camerawork are strong, and the film combines the lively Aussie beach culture with strikingly shot and edited wave-riding footage.

It also helps that the young cast members bring so much sun-drenched physicality to their roles, convincingly deepening the characters through the messy interaction, raw emotional scenes and some pretty vicious clashes on the waves (the stunt surfers are good too). Intriguingly, Samuel has the strongest, most involving role as a kid working out who he is. And veterans Jacobson, Smithers and Otto (as the boys' parents and grandfather) effectively give the film some real weight.

This is a story about young people who feel more at home in the water, where the rules are simple and they only have themselves to rely on. But of course, the real world is much trickier to navigate. The plot hinges around Jesse's inner turmoil, as he feels like he can't get what he knows he has the skill and passion to achieve. Yes, this is a serious, evocative theme, but some humour and a sense of balance would have made it even more meaningful.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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dir-prd Todd Verow
scr Jim Dwyer, Todd Verow
with Brad Hallowell, Gregory L Lucas, Hilary Mann, Michael John Dion, Charles Ard, Jennifer Stackpole, Mindy Hofman, Nathan Johnson, Theodore Bouloukos, Gregg Anderson, Jono Mainelli, Todd Verow
hallowell and lucas
release US 2.Aug.06,
UK 26.Jul.10 dvd
06/US 1h44

See also:
vacationland What could have been an interesting look at coming of age in a provincial town is weakened by awkward filmmaking and stiff performances. And the attempts at edginess are undermined by a fear of on-screen honesty.

In the holiday town of Bangor, Maine, Joe (Hallowell) is a compulsive liar who hangs out with his troublemaking pal Andrew (Lucas). While keeping his sexuality a secret, Joe indulges in random toilet sex, models for a local artist (Ard) and offers his French teacher (Johnson) sex for a passing grade. But the biggest problem is that he's in love with Andrew. Neither of them can muster any real interest in their pushy girlfriends (Hofman and Stackpole), but when they finally get together it's not plain sailing.

Clearly filmmaker Verow was aiming for a Gregg Araki-style vibe, with the glaring camerawork and a continual stream of so-called "shocking" behaviour. But the realistic autobiographical touches are undermined by cheesy production values, including a rough sound mix underscored by constant electronic music, voiceover narration that sounds like it was recorded in a Portaloo and clunky acting by a cast that looks closer to 30 than the 18-year-olds they're playing.

While there's the germ of a good idea, the film is never convincing. Verow continually hedges his bets, trying to be edgy and provocative while prudishly shying away from nudity and sex; there's lots of talking about it, but the camera can't bear to look. He also fails to capture the inner life of any of these characters, so they all feel like paper-thin projections of himself. And without any real sense of yearning or passion, they're wholly uninvolving.

And there's also the fundamental problem that Joe is both a compulsive liar and a sexual predator who opportunistically mauls Andrew when he's asleep and is unafraid to manipulate men to get what he wants. In better hands, he could be a compelling movie anti-hero. Instead, we never get even a hint of his emotions as the film drifts from one scenario to another then collapses altogether in a chaotic final act. And in the end, Verow skirts so far around the central romance that we can't muster any sympathy at all.

18 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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