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Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) ★★

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Director: Monica Zanetti

Cast: Marta Dusseldorp, Sophie Hawkshaw, Zoe Terakes, Rachel House

Released: 11th June 2021 in UK Cinemas

Some films examine the LGBTQIA+ community’s battle to obtain equal rights (e.g. Philadelphia, Pride), whereas others portray people’s struggles to express their same-sex affections publicly (e.g. Love, Simon, Hidden Kisses). The Australian romantic comedy Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) crafts something in between lacking a focal point. Though the film displays the much-needed appreciation for our ancestors who strenuously fought for equality, it fails to intertwine this gratitude within a consolidated plot.

Pusillanimous teenager Ellie (Sophie Hawkshaw) doesn’t have the guts to ask her classmate, Abbie (Zoe Terakes), to the prom (or as Australians call it, the “formal”). She shares her struggles with her mother (Marta Dusseldorp), reveals she’s gay, and since her mum remains speechless, Ellie deems her a bigot. Later, her dead aunt (Julia Billington) turns up as a goofy fairy to help Ellie through her coming-out journey.

Yet Ellie never stumbles upon any trouble that emerges externally. Everybody turns out to be supportive of her sexual drive, and the only reason why she can’t accomplish her desire is her timidness. Ellie’s classmates, who are nothing more than a cluster of poorly-acting extras, don’t oppose her beliefs, and neither does her family. Many problems for the family (but also vital lessons for the viewers!) result from the aunt’s tragic passing. However, they don’t affect the lead’s objective—to charm her crush—and they tell a completely different tale. Since the narrative comprises two disentangled storylines, it collapses.

After resolving the huge misunderstanding between Ellie and her mother, the screenplay has no more hurdles for Ellie and it gets predictable. She simply has to overcome her fears by herself to get the girl. Also, the distastefully over-the-top aunt isn’t a mentor to Ellie. Ultimately, it’s the revelation of what she did before her death that activates the tame teenager’s lionheart. Put differently, her supernatural appearance is as redundant as it’s comedically abortive.

The soundtrack having sprightly tunes and languorous synthpop conveys a nuanced picture of Ellie’s troubled but spry teenage reality. And Hawkshaw’s well-balanced performance wealthily materialises this pre-adult feeling. But Ellie & Abbie’s screenplay blending oil and water, as well as including an unnecessary mysterious element, makes for an unsatisfying rom-com that attempts to celebrate something it can’t handle structurally.

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