Pretty Good Friends

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It’s always refreshing to see an independent Australian film. There’s something about the realistic dialogue and genuine characters that strikes a chord with Aussie viewers. Director Sophia Townsend’s first film Pretty Good Friends has a lot of heart, but doesn’t really deliver the goods.

Jules (Jenni Townsend) has just broken up with her partner and moved home to Melbourne from Adelaide, where she has been living while she supports his dream. No longer able to put herself second, she comes to stay temporarily with her friend Sam (Rain Fuller) and Sam’s boyfriend, Alex (Nathan Barillaro). While Jenni struggles to find her way, she, Sam and Alex try to strike up a comfortable living arrangement as people change and relationships evolve.

Pretty Good Friends is a sweet story. It uses authentic settings, ambiguity  and heavy symbolism to teach a lesson about friendship and loyalty, and the different paths our lives can take, despite our best efforts to walk side by side. The problem is that though the acting is generally strong, the script runs weak in too many places which staggers the flow and at times threatens to bring it to a shuddering halt.

Nathan Barillaro, the co-writer of the piece, performs well enough as the op-shop clothes wearing Alex, but his character is underdeveloped and uninspiring, leaving his powers of propelling the plot slightly mystifying. Jenni Townsend is inconsistent at best in the lead role, only putting any real conviction into her awkward pauses and stammered sentences. The sense of lost direction and floundering comes across as genuine, but her delivery of every line with giggles and titters is more irritating than charming. Rain Fuller’s portrayal of Sam is very strong, but again, the character feels incomplete. Sam and Jules are clearly meant to be very old friends, and though there is genuine chemistry between them, this never reaches its full potential and they come across as mere acquaintances who suffer too many awkward silences.

Despite a weak script, however, Sophia Townsend’s directorial skills come through to capture the mood of Pretty Good Friends. The backdrop of the Melbourne skyline works magic for longer scenes, and the soundtrack of passing trams really sets the mood. Townsend lets herself down though, when the aforementioned symbolism drags on with every tunnel the characters need to walk through.

Pleasant enough to view, Pretty Good Friends shows potential. If nothing else, it’s worth keeping an eye on Fuller and Barillaro as actors. Hopefully next time they’ll step away from bike riding, coffee drinking, hipster cliche material and really recognise their capabilities.

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