It's the summer before the final year of school, Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Laura (Lily Sullivan) share every secret except for Billie's biggest secret - she's in love with Laura's boyfriend, Danny (Toby Wallace). When Billie's social worker mum takes in Isaac (Aliki Matangi), a troubled teenager looking to get his life straight, the delicate balance of the three friends' lives is disrupted. They immerse themselves in the swirl of teenage parties, possible love and the intensity of sex and desire, the world of the four teenagers is changed forever as their secrets are revealed and their lives, friendships and loves are thrown into chaos.
Review by Louise Keller:
Just like Cate Shortland's Somersault explores the emotional demons of its teenage protagonist as she uses sex like a bandaid, Galore covers similar territory. The outstanding feature of writer director Rhys Graham's debut film is its strong sense of place and Stefan Duscio's exquisite cinematography makes full use of natural light to showcase the Canberra landscape and beautiful skin tones of the film's young stars. First and foremost, the story is about the intimate friendship between two young girls as they bridge the sexual divide into adulthood. Then everything gets all messed up.
As a mood piece, Galore excels, capturing the nuances and dynamics of the relationship between the two girls as they share a sweltering summer and boyfriends. We are there as the girls paint each other's toe-nails, enjoy picnics, late night swims, steal cigarettes, smoke joints and share their inner most thoughts. The complication concerning the boys in their life is the undoing of it all: they both like the same boy.
It takes a little while for us to understand the relationships and how everything fits together. The opening shot of Lily Sullivan and Toby Wallace as Laura and Danny in a moment of intimacy is one of sheer beauty. Their faces are shown in extreme proximity to each other - and upside down - just like the world in which they are living. Ashleigh Cummings (as Billie) has been gifted the role with the greatest stretch, and she delivers hands down. Billie's middle name is Provocative and she uses sex as a weapon.
I must admit I was a little confused as to who was attached to whom at first and the muffled dialogue does not help. However, once it has been determined that Billie has her scantily painted talons out for Danny and Laura has the hots for Isaac (Aliki Matangi), the latest 'stray dog' Billie's mother has brought home from her charitable work, we are able to watch the action play out.
The dramatic arc begins with a party, a late night joy ride and a messy outcome. Things evolve from there and the red light alerts of teenage irresponsibility are showcased. Sullivan is outstanding as Laura the girl with the journal, Toby Wallace shines as the boy with the skateboard, Matangi has great presence as Isaac while Maya Stange is solid as Billie's mother, who seems to have more time for the troubled kids with whom she works than her own daughter.
The backdrop on which Graham has built his narrative is that of a parched landscape about to be ravaged by bushfires and I especially liked the use of fluid, melodic piano in the establishment scenes. It is the colours and textures that make the film a work of beauty. Galore may not tell a new story, but the setting and context is well described, drawing us into that arc of teenage angst, when sex and love are confused and risk-taking flies perilously like an out-of-control kite.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
With Abdellatif Kechiche's latest film, Blue is the Warmest Colour, fresh in our minds (Australian release February 2014), it is unavoidable that this film reminds us of that filmmaker's cinematic signatures, such as prolonged extreme close ups of young faces, plump young lips and tender kissing, coupled with tight framing, occasional use of hand held camera and an almost claustrophobic focus on the key characters, all wrapped in a deliberately paced narrative.
While I'm not a fan of either that style nor the characters and themes on display here, I do recognise the quality of the work from all concerned. Absolutely committed performances anchor the film's dramatic payload, an exploration of youthful bravura that breeds irresponsibility that leads to tragedy. Guilt, love, prejudice and friendship are key ingredients.
The story of such a close friendship, as close as sisters can get, relies on credible characters and Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) and Laura (Lily Sullivan) deliver that absolutely. The film rests entirely on the web of that relationship, including those particular warps of young females where boys are concerned and the friendship is strained.
Aliki Matangi is memorable in a wonderfully minimalist performance as Isaac, the young New Zealander Billie's social worker mum (Maya Stange) brings home to provide him temporary shelter. His troubled past provides a dramatic lever with which to propel the drama when a 'borrowed' family car is involved in an accident - and someone has to take the blame.
It is on this pivot of guilt and responsibility that the film's theme of friendship and loyalty is built - and tested. The youth of the characters gives this a particular dimension, intended, of course, but for me it limits the power of the film's impact.
Set in the rather ordinary outer suburbs of Canberra, there is little sense of place other than occasional references to the looming bushfires, signalled by billowing smoke on the horizon. By the time the fires are closing in, much more has been burnt away than the landscape around these lives.
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CAST: Ashleigh Cummings, Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan, Maya Stange, Aliki Matangi, Oscar Redding, Daniel Webber, Natasha Novak, Angus Murphy
PRODUCER: Philippa Campey
DIRECTOR: Rhys Graham
SCRIPT: Rhys Graham
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stefan Duscio
EDITOR: Andy Canny
MUSIC: Christopher O'Young, Flynn Wheeler
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ben Morieson
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 19, 2014