Sydney Film Festival Review: Ellipsis (AUS, 2017) is an intimate and beautifully real film

There’s a lot that can happen in 24 hours, and unless you stop and take a moment to let it sink in, you might just miss something magical. From acclaimed actor David Wenham comes his feature film directorial debut with Ellipsis, a film that came together under unusual circumstances but the end result is something truly special. With a tight budget and an even tighter shooting schedule of eleven days, Wenham and his small crew have created a film that feels intimate and real.

When a distracted Jasper (Benedict Samuel) physically bumps into Viv (Emily Barclay) and breaks her mobile phone, this accidental meeting goes from a chance encounter to a day and night long adventure. Jasper, feeling guilty offers to pay to fix Viv’s phone and then take her out for coffee. His genuine charm has one thing lead to another and soon enough Jasper and Viv are wandering from Bondi to Waverley through Sydney City and Kings Cross from the morning, into the night and into the morning of the next day. Their rapidly growing rapport and connection is emboldened as they traverse the city streets meeting interesting characters along the way.

The first thing you notice about Ellipsis is how close and warm the film is. We’re given three main characters, Jasper, Viv and the Phone Repair Guy. We predominantly follow Jasper and Viv’s story, but interwoven into their narrative is that of the Phone Repair Man (Ferdinand Hoang), taking Viv’s phone to work on overnight so it’s ready for her the next morning. Jasper and Viv through the course of their wanderings become more willing to share their personal stories, both of which include personal tragedy and heartbreak. So not only is there the physical loss of Viv’s phone being broken but there’s also the metaphoric brokenness they feel inside. And yet juxtaposed against their failings is our Phone Repair Man, coming home to his wife, daughter and elderly mother. Working on applying for his Australian Citizenship Test, helping his mother build a fruit art decorative piece and trying to fix Viv’s phone. His character is one of a fixer, a proactive person intent on finding a solution.

Cinematographer Simon Morris manages to capture the lesser seen or known side of Sydney as he follows our leads on their journey through the suburbs and back into the city. Sydney locals will recognise some of the places such as Bondi Icebergs, the extravagant Queen Victoria Building interior, the remnants of the Coca Cola sign, a sex shop in Kings Cross, and Waverley Cemetery. A decision that Wenham purposefully insisted upon, so that the Sydney onscreen is more from a local’s perspective rather than a tourist’s. With the most amount of time the production crew spent in any one location around 2 hours, the scenery moves fast but the focus lingers long on our two leads. Whilst the soundtrack provided by Megan Washington is a subtle accompaniment to our duo’s journey.

Obvious comparisons to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise could be made but Wenham’s endeavour is far more spontaneous and ambitious. After having only 3 days to workshop the narrative with his two leads, and the other 8 days and nights to film, the goal he was striving to achieve was allowing the random events of the shoot itself to dictate the journey whilst only retaining a handful of specific narrative plot points and locations to ensure the overall story arc was achieved. The experimentation worked, in that it’s hard to see where the fiction ends and what feels like an almost reality begins.

In Ellipsis Wenham has managed to achieve an intimate and beautifully real film. One where our two leads are relatable and believable and the night time journey that they go on reminds us of a time when we were young, free and adventurous.

Running Time: 85 minutes

Ellipsis had its premiere screening last night as part of the Sydney Film Festival 2017, where it was reviewed. There will be an additional screening of the film on Wednesday 14 June. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.


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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.