Much of the recent output of the Australian film industry has been intentionally depressing, with 2007 titles like The Jammed and Noise adding to the feeling that unless the film is a drama it will not find an audience. It has been some time since local film fans have had a simple romantic comedy to enjoy, but perhaps that can be remedied by All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane. Outside of Brisbane, where it enjoyed a seven week cinema release, however, the film unfortunately can be seen only in festivals or at special screenings, like the Melbourne premiere hosted by the Australian Film Institute and The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, although a dvd release is pending from Accent Entertainment.
Anthea (Charlotte Gregg) is dissatisfied with life in Brisbane, and considering following so many of her peers by leaving to find work and adventure in London. Her best friend Michael (Matt Zeremes) seems comfortable enough with his life, and can’t understand why she would contemplate such a move instead of enjoying what she has. The return from London of her ex-boyfriend Jake (Gyton Grantley) and the departure (to London, of course) of housemate Kath (Cindy Nelson) will force Anthea to make decisions she has been putting off and Matt to take risks he wasn’t sure he was capable of.
Made with a budget of only $42,000 and shot in three weeks using the house of director Louise Alston as its main set, All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane is a great example of what is possible when filmmakers with passion get together behind a good script. (That it subsequently received post-production funding from the Australian Film Commission does not make their achievement any less praiseworthy.) Alston and writer Stephen Vagg had worked together previously in theatre, and the art of making do and putting on a show seems to have been well learnt.
The cast have their off moments, but generally performances are good, with Gregg in the lead the most outstanding. That she is lumbered with a sometimes slightly dull character is a shame – Romany Lee’s turn as Simone often threatens to be more charismatic – yet the lead needed to be both conflicted and engaging, and Gregg manages to achieve both. Zeremes is adequate, although Ryan Johnson’s Tyson is the most memorable male character and of all the cast he seems to be having the most fun.
Vagg’s script embodies a sly wit that should give most a laugh, and the story is nimbly told such that the film seems to skip through its relatively short 76 minutes. That it is simple and fun is its biggest strength, flying in the face of so many other bleak and stark Australian stories, and the resolution (although predictable) is entirely satisfying. Romantic comedy is not a frequently attempted genre in Australian filmmaking, making All My Friends Are Leaving Brisbane all the more worth seeing.Rating: