From Australia, land of convulsive secrets lurking beneath dowdy surfaces, comes Shirley Barrett, making an impressive debut with a one-of-a-kind sibling film, “Love Serenade.”
It’s a quirky and thoroughly original cross between a love story and a fish story, starring Rebecca Firth and Mirando Otto as sisters living in a backwater, finding their lives upended - an event they had been longing for - when a new drivetime deejay comes to town, dripping with sophistication from a lifetime spent in glittering Brisbane, sliding downhill right next door in the house he has rented alongside the home shared by the sisters.
The deejay, steeped in a melancholy that has an aphrodisiac effect on the sibs, is stuck in a rut, programming ‘70s mush. Lanky and listless, there’s something fishy about him, and George Shevtsov makes him seem intriguingly deep by doing very little emoting.
Not that he’s slow to accept the sisters, when each throws herself at him in turn. Firth is funny as the one who talks about giving the new neighbor his space, then does anything but as she inflicts her raging domesticity upon him with a series of baked offerings and casseroles delivered tirelessly to his door, determined to make him the man who didn’t get away.
She’s the worldly sister, exposed as she is to a cross-section of communal wisdom from her job in the only hairdressing salon in town. Otto’s gauche, shy Dimity works as a waitress in the town’s only Chinese restaurant, run by a surly proprietor (John Alansu), who likes to hang around his digs in the nude when he isn’t snapping at his few customers. But it isn’t the same.
Still, when Dimity shows up at the celeb’s door, timid but determined, and does a knock-kneed striptease, finally wearing nothing but a doubtful expression on her face, it’s she whose offer the deejay accepts in his undemonstrative way.
There’s something sly, reptilian and hidden about the media burnout who croons velvety nonsense between musical selections. Shevtsov makes him intriguing enough to be regarded as more than just a warm body filling a conspicuous social vacuum in a place where molecular motion, let alone social bustle, barely exists.
But then the sisters, despite their plain exteriors and empty lives, pack a few surprises themselves, especially when it comes to the town’s only opportunity for thrill-seeking - climbing the highest silo and enjoying the view. “Love Serenade” sings a wickedly entertaining siren song in this fish-out-of-water or big-fish-in-a-small-pond fable.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Love Serenade” Location: Lincoln Heights Cinema Art Credits: Directed and written by Shirley Barrett, starring: Mirando Otto, Rebecca Firth, George Shevtsov, John Alansu Running time: 1:41 Rating: R
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