Of all the many and various kinks out there, and crikey there are a lot, surely none is quite as confounding yet intriguing as that of the “financial humiliatrix”. For those not in the know, that’s when a woman – usually fully clothed, always dripping with disdain – takes your money, often employing blackmail or vicious verbal humiliation, and you get off on the whole process. Ceara Lynch is a real-life professional humiliatrix and Use Me, an indie thriller from writer/director/actor Julian Shaw, seeks to explore what makes such a person tick, and why that would be so powerfully erotic to a certain type of man.
Except, that’s not entirely true. See, Julian Shaw – a talented New Zealand born director who previously helmed the award-winning documentaries Darling! The Pieter-Dirk Uys Story (2007) and Cup of Dreams (2011) – is delivering something a little different here. While the movie uses many real-life personalities, including Joe Rogan, Ceara Lynch, Julian himself and even FilmInk hefe Dov Kornits, Use Me tells a fictional tale that utilises the stylistic trappings of a documentary. Fiction dressed as fact, if you will.
The end result is fascinating, coming together as a sort of post-truth thriller which feels deeply era appropriate and cleverly engages with its subject matter, morphing from a warts-and-all look at a strange part of the sex industry to something else entirely. Its ambition does occasionally outstrip its execution, mind you, with some of the latter twists straining credulity in ways that feel reminiscent of David Fincher’s The Game. Still, performances are natural, with Shaw’s oddly wholesome energy making him an agreeable protagonist and Ceara Lynch is an excellent subject/foil whose motivations remain ambiguous right up until the tale’s twisty conclusion. Also worth noting are Jazlyn Yoder and genre vet Joseph D. Reitman who both make an impact, although for very different reasons.
Ultimately, Use Me is an engaging, intriguing ride. Blurring the line between fantasy and reality in ways both subtle and overt, it manages to keep you guessing right up until the end. And while it doesn’t answer the question “why would anyone be into that” it may make you wonder about any undiscovered kinks you might have lurking in your own psyche, and what the cost of exploring them might be.
‘Why even try?’ is perhaps the central question of Maybe Tomorrow, the latest indie from Melbourne filmmakers Caitlin Farrugia and Michael Jones (Lazybones). Why try doing something when you are low on money and time? Or what about that big dream of yours, eh? Why bother if your priorities are going to suddenly change?
Who are all these questions being hurled at? Well, that would be young Melbourne couple Erin and Patrick, played by Tegan Crowley and Veteresio Tuikaba. Both are bursting with energy as they discuss the film that they’re going to be making together when their bubble of creativity is burst by the cries of their new born child. It’s not a cold moment, but it foreshadows the rollercoaster journey they will take in the pursuit of artistic expression.
Patrick appears to think nothing of mixing filmmaking with parenthood. Whilst Erin works at a coffee shop to pay the bills, he plays househusband, strumming the ukulele to his child and working out the schedule for the shoot. It’s the kind of free time Erin perhaps misses, when compared to the short time she gets to have at the end of the day with her family and the screenplay she’s poured her heart into – a screenplay which appears to be a release for Erin, in which the scenarios she writes about and even the actors she chooses seem to echo parts of her life with Patrick. So, when her story, including a literal car crash of a finale, begins to be reshaped by outside forces, you can really sense her frustration simmer. Meanwhile, the housebound Patrick is sabotaging his own attempts at making new friends as a father.
Let’s be clear, Maybe Tomorrow is not a mopey kitchen sink drama. Rather, this a playful dramedy. Whilst Patrick storyboards scenes with baby toys and paints any potential new friends as ‘racists’ before he’s even met them, Erin struggles with auditioning actors and their egos.
Farrugia and Jones are clearly having a lot of fun as they make fun of their own world. Upon being asked by Erin what previous parts she’s played, a young Asian actor lists every cliched role that’s beholden to people of colour in Australia: ‘best friend, servant, sex trafficked woman…’
As the couple at the centre of everything, Crowley and Tuikaba share an adorable chemistry as they play with their baby, playfully bicker about whether veggie pasties are really food and not so playfully bicker about film budgets. It says something about their performances that when the filming schedule applies pressure, you find yourself incredibly protective of them.
Loving and warm, Maybe Tomorrow is a charming portrait of new parenthood and the complexities of film production.