Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Nadi Sha
Stars: Jordan Dulieu, Freyja Benjamin, Martin Crewes, Gigi Edgely.
A bittersweet coming-of-age drama about love and loss set against a doomed romance, Everything In Between is the debut feature for local filmmaker Nadi Sha and was shot on location around Sydney. Its universal themes and positive messages should resonate strongly with its target audience.
The film centres on Jason Knight (Jordan Dulieu, from My Pet Dinosaur, etc), an introverted and troubled teenager who feels alienated and alone, and he feels as though his life lacks direction. The film opens with him contemplating suicide while standing on a clifftop that has become notorious for suicides. But at the last minute he is rescued by an Uber driver. While he is waiting in the hospital to be assessed by a psychiatrist, he meets Elizabeth (Freyja Benjamin), a tattooed, free spirited dope smoking American backpacker who has her own health concerns. Jason and Elizabeth manage to form a strong bond and she teaches him that there is plenty to get out of life, and he comes to experience love and the pain of first romance.
Elizabeth is diagnosed with coccidiodomycosis, a rare and sometimes fatal fungal condition that she contracted while on a commune in the California desert. Jason struggles to understand his own feelings about Elizabeth and come to terms with the diagnosis. Jason’s superficial self-absorbed parents – his womanising father Dave (Martin Crewes, from Resident Evil, etc) and his image conscious mother Dee (Gigi Edgley, from Farscape, etc) – are somewhat distant and dealing with their own issues and they struggle to understand what their son is experiencing.
Written by Sha and his cowriter co-writer Grant Osborn (a veteran of television series), Everything In Between works in themes about mental illness, depression, mortality, dysfunctional family relationships, acceptance, teenage angst, and the healing power of love and faith, although a couple of the ideas remain underdeveloped. The story arc of the doomed romance between a young man and a woman with a life-threatening illness is not new – in fact the 1970’s classic weepie Love Story is, arguably, the archetype for this genre. However, first time feature filmmaker Sha and Osborn were determined to avoid the script becoming too much of a cliché, and they suffuse the material with a dark sense of humour. Sha was also influenced by dramas such as the Robert Redford directed Oscar winning drama Ordinary People. He handles the material with compassion and sensitivity, and the film delivers some positive messages about resilience and hope which will resonate strongly with its target audience.
Sha draws strong performances from his small but effective cast. Dulieu is particularly good as the quiet, troubled Jason and although his sullen and taciturn character is initially hard to warm to, his natural and unforced performance seems authentic, and he gradually wins us over as we grow more sympathetic towards his plight. Dulieu has a maturity that belies his age, and he fully embraces the complexities of his moody, brooding character. In her first feature film role Benjamin gives the film its emotional heart. The pair share a palpable chemistry that enriches the material. Both Crewes and Edgley are also great as Jason’s socialite parents who eventually come together as they try to help Jay cope with his grief and confused emotional state.
This low budget blend of coming-of-age drama and tragic love story was shot on the streets of Sydney, and the cinematography gives us some great vistas of the city. The production design from Angela Cheung (Mr Inbetween, etc) is good, and the Knight’s house almost becomes another character in the drama.