Monday, February 17, 2014

Berlinale: Galore Review

Monday, February 17, 2014

Directed by: Rhys Graham
Written by: Rhys Graham
Starring: Ashleigh Cummings, Lily Sullivan, Toby Wallace, Aliki Matangi
Running time: 103 minutes
Release date: TBA

Initially, there was a lot to root for in Rhys Graham's teenage screwball feature, Galore, and the premise was a promising one. It is a valiant attempt at an honest portrayal of the ups and downs of the lives of a group of Australian youths in Canberra. The main players of this stage are introduced as Billie, the unapologetic wildchild, Laura, the gentle-souled daydreamer, Danny as the baby-faced skater boy and tough, misunderstood Islander kid Isaac. The film breezes through the events that take place prior to a raging bush fire that will tear through and eradicate everything they used to know as home - a roll call of drink, sex, relationships and rebellion.

Galore has all the elements present to be an engaging and likeable film. Beautifully shot, wide landscape scans of the sunny, tall-grassed Australian horizon and well-executed frames make it entirely visually pleasing. The staggering photography is bolstered by the release of young and reckless excitement, and the relaxed narrative peppered with angst. However, at its core something is still missing. From the outset, it comes across as a little overindulgent and sometimes tries a little too hard - lingering unnecessarily long on frequent close ups, the female leads engaging in Effy Stonem (of Skins fame) style swaying to the backdrop of some fireworks or flashing lights, post-coital teenage love talk rehashed from a bad American romcom ('you make me crazy' and so forth). Everything is a little too much whilst attempting to masquerade as organic and spontaneous. It is admirable in the way it tries to do its own thing but mostly it is painfully aware of itself.

The characters themselves present somewhat of a stumbling block in terms of how we the audience relate to them. Our main protagonist, Billie, is far from likeable but the feel of film does almost the opposite of giving you the impression that you are not supposed to like her. Perhaps it is just part and parcel of teenage life but she seems to be experiencing some kind of internal rebellion for no apparent reason and comes across as annoyingly self-involved. Laura, when coming to realise a major act of betrayal on Billie and Danny's part, proves to be disappointingly dispassionate, depriving the film of a possible pivotal climax. With the exception of Isaac, who has probably had a more difficult life than the others, they are all a little bit too serious, as if they have Seen Things when in reality life is yet to happen to them. You wish they'd lighten up a bit.

When things come to a bloody, emotional mess at the end - the fatal consequences of past misdemeanors coming back to haunt them - it is impossible to feel sorry for Billie considering her persistently selfish attitude coupled with lack of remorse, but you are left with the impression that the film, bizarrely enough, is leading you on to feel this way; be it sympathy, empathy or anything at all, none are possible. You can only hope her bullshit attitude has been burnt away by the fire along with everything else. The fire stands to be a neat and surprisingly subtle metaphor for change, destruction and warring emotions but, fundamentally, the absence of any catharsis upon conclusion for such an emotionally-charged film stares you glaringly in the face.

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