Galore is a feature perpetuating life in its real form. It is a masterful, controlled piece of cinema which throws you in unexpected ways. You, as an audience member, delve so deep and convincingly into the lives of the characters that you feel somewhat affected by the swift turn of events - from sweet freedom to recluse circumstance. The careful and virtuoso craftsmanship of every character can truly be appreciated. You can actually feel their presence. The film is patient; it lets the light dance in front of the lens, it gives time for us to become familiar with places, season, routine and patterns, and it introduces us to every character as they come.
Come a chilly Wednesday night, I find myself seated at a special screening of Galore at Cinema Nova on Lygon Street. It is always a different cinematic experience when you are prepared to come face-to-face with the very people who created the film you just saw. It was a strangely and uniquely intimate two hours. The director Rhys Graham, producer Philippa Campey and actors Toby Wallace, Lily Sullivan and Aliki Mantagi were in attendance and following the screening provided some insight into the work behind the magic.
Galore tells the story of youth: that derelict, reckless time where in a narrow and singular vision, you are invincible. Billie (Ashleigh Cummings) is an indignant spirit who exists in a delicate balance, the prospect of eventual havoc looming quietly over her head. She loves and lives fiercely. Her summer days in the lazy town are spent working shifts at a local store, swimming and sunbathing by the river, long nights spent partying - all with the company of her best friend, Laura (Lily Sullivan). But the dynamics of the relationships Billie holds are far more complex. Billie and Laura's boyfriend, Danny (Toby Wallace), hide away for hours on end together, madly and indisputably crazy for each other.
Many of the hallmarks of the standard Australian film are no doubt present but the distinction here is that there is a significant lack of exploitation and unnecessary gloss. The film harbours some beautiful script-work - there's an easy, graceful coherence between the words spoken and the way in which we hear them. During the Q&A session, Lily Sullivan spoke about the naturalistic passage of shaping the script to fit the screen.
Each element of the film, from the powerhouse performances, to the stirring score (slow-strumming, patient perfection) and the rather natural introduction to the local landscape, correlates beautifully. Everything is in sync.
Ashleigh Cummings supplies a performance which is endlessly compelling; her prepossessing mannerisms and electric execution of the script is a wonder to watch, her narrations: serene and stimulating. I was also truly taken by Lily Sullivan's representation of one suppressed by the shock of betrayal. As an audience member, I was reassured that these two startling actresses will feature on the silver screen for years to come. There's a consistency and fearlessness to their execution. Toby Wallace charms in his role - his steady performance throughout is not to be overlooked. Finally, newcomer Aliki Mantagi's emotionally charged and confidence is striking - not a single misstep was taken by the young actor.
What makes for some distinctive cinematography by Stefan Duscio is the haunting backdrop of the fast-approaching bushfires - establishing something of an apocalyptic tone to the feature. The ever-present smoke climbing above that hill or the next, the stifling, smouldering heat as the situation escalated. Living, of course, took place in the meantime.
Another merit of the film which must be recognised is the unflinching portrayal of grief. I can really appreciate the subtle intensity of painful moments. Graham showed us all that the first moment you laugh after it happens is not the moment that you stop crying.
Often teen-orientated films choose to sensationalise their content which seems hardly necessary. Being young is crazy enough as it is. Decent films, not necessarily for teens but about teens, are hard to come by. The fleshy, convoluted material of youth is often left to lay waste to the world. Rhys Graham has ventured strong and wilful into a dangerous territory and emerged with strong representation and a truthful love letter to the essential insanity of adolescence.
Galore captures the intensity of great moments. It's an exhilarating experience, a masterpiece, a courageous film which has made and will make an unparalleled contribution to the Australian film industry. Inspired and spirited, one of my favourite features of the film are the many stolen glances between Billie and Danny. This is young love at its best, a dangerous and all-consuming infatuation. The scenes that they share when the two are alone are ones that many can relate to: we can all picture the way the sun wandered when there was nothing but the heat and the wide of expanse of nobody but the somebody next to you. Freedom may be an illusion but we're never more alive than when we're young and ignorant.
Premiering in Berlin, the film has made short appearances in Shanghai, Sweden, Edinburgh and the Czech Republic. If you happen to live in Australia, I heavily implore you to go see the film for yourself. Distributions are limited with the film playing at just one cinema in most states. Support the Australian film industry. This gem of a film really deserves to be seen.
Melbourne - Cinema Nova Carlton
Brisbane - Blue Room Cinebar
Canberra - Palace Electric
Sydney - Dendy Newton
Perth - Cinema Paradiso