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21° & PARTLY CLOUDY ON THURSDAY 14 NOVEMBER IN SYDNEY
By Tom Clift
June 20, 2014
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Galore

Like an artsy Australian version of an episode of Skins, but noticeably lacking in stakes.
By Tom Clift
June 20, 2014
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Over a hot, tumultuous summer, a group of teenagers struggle with love, sex and betrayal. Like an artsy Australian version of an episode of Skins, writer-director Rhys Graham's debut feature Galore is an earnest and technically confident piece of filmmaking but noticeably lacking in stakes. Like so many other tales about teens behaving badly, the overblown drama on which the movie hinges never really seems that important. Lush cinematography and natural performance ultimately make little difference when you just don't care about the story.

The film takes place around the outskirts of Canberra, a few weeks before the devastating 2003 bushfires. Puberty Blues star Ashleigh Cummings plays 17-year-old Billie, whose voiceover bookends the film. Her best friend is Laura (Lily Sullivan), an aspiring writer and the girlfriend of skater boy Danny (Toby Wallace). She's thinking about giving Danny her virginity, and goes to her life-long BFF for advice. What Laura doesn't know is that Billie is already sleeping with him.

In short, it's exactly the kind of angst-ridden rubbish that makes you glad you're no longer in high school. Petulant and manipulative, Billie treats life like a sordid little soap opera in which she's the tragic star. The reality of the situation is far less kind, not to mention a whole lot less interesting. The movie's dramatic inflation of Billie's selfish behaviour may strike a chord with teenage audiences, although they'll probably be bored by the film's deliberate pacing. Adults, on other hand, will just want to throttle her.

The poor plotting is unfortunate, because in other areas the film is quite strong. Despite Cummings being saddled with a deeply unsympathetic character, both her and Sullivan give intensely authentic performances. The same is true of newcomer Aliki Matangi as Isaac, a troubled but good-natured youth who gets caught up in Billie's drama. The weak link is Wallace as the mopey, uncharismatic Danny, whose blandness makes the love triangle that much more difficult to comprehend.

Graham also deserves credit for his graceful visual direction. While handheld camerawork and sun-dappled cinematography aren't exactly new tricks for an Australian made indie, there's no discounting the beauty of the film's setting, nor the elegance with which Graham, a Canberra local, brings the sleepy location to life.

But the skill all comes to naught in the service of such an uninvolving narrative. Both Graham and his cast likely have bright futures ahead of them, sure to be filled with far more accomplished projects. Go and see them, but give Galore a miss.

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