Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
Sophie Hawkshaw, Zoe Terakes, Julia Billington, Marta Dusseldorp, Rachel House
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…earns its feel-good vibe.
This is a heart-warming and queer-positive drama about coming of age and coming out, or both at the same time.
Shot on a modest budget and using actors who have mostly previously done TV work, Monica Zanetti’s directorial debut uses its Sydney locations to conjure a small world, but a much bigger story. It is also a lesbian world almost wholly without men (although the film is dedicated to a male gay couple). This is deliberate and gives the film its parallel universe feel. And why not? We have had plenty of school-based rom coms for straight kids.
Being ‘right on’ though, isn’t that relevant, when what matters is what has always mattered; a good script and performances. A lot depends on the central schoolgirls and they are both engaging. We care about their faltering steps to the (somewhat inevitable) romance.
Ellie (Sophie Hawkshaw) is a confident girl doing really well in year 11. She is the A grade school captain type and, though she sometimes clashes with her mum (Marta Dusseldorp), her life is more or less on track. However, she is thrown off course when she becomes smitten by her sassy classmate Abbie (strong screen presence Zoe Terakes).
Abbie is the more dangerous ‘bad girl’; she is more at home with her sexual preference, but she is cautious about Ellie’s advances.
An admixture to the plot is the fact that Ellie’s dead aunt Tara (Julia Billington stealing most of her scenes) pops up to advise her niece on how to woo a girl. Tara is of course gay too and is part of the aforementioned completely gay universe that is the background assumption. The device of a ghost, who can be seen by only one person is a familiar trope and some may find it a bit too well-worn here, but you should definitely go with her. Another character worth noting is Patty, Ellie’s mum’s best friend, played by Kiwi actress Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok) in an against type performance.
All in all, the film earns its feel-good vibe. There is enough Looking For Alibrandi style closeness to school girl concerns to connect to audiences and, for the right crowd, this has the makings of a cult film.