Modestly assembled and expertly executed, David Wenham’s delightful debut feature Ellipsis conjures those occasions when human connection comes calling, often in spite of some general apathy. Employing a style of narrative popularized by Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, the actor-turned-director’s serendipitous romance is the story of Viv (Emily zBarclay) and Jasper (Benedict Samuel), two passers-by who spend a night traversing a city together after one of the pair accidentally breaks the other’s phone. Particularly impressive is that Ellipsis is the product of a seven-day shoot and miniscule budget, the script having been storyboarded just prior to filming. Laden with overlapping dialogue and awkward pauses, the improvisational interplay between the leads proves consistently engaging without feeling overeager or mawkish. And in using the loss of a phone as the narrative catalyst for the duo to ‘unplug,’ the film offers up a sly commentary on technology’s limiting effect on modern relationships, a throwback to the meet-cute cinema of a pre-digital age.
Particularly impressive is that Ellipsis is the product of a seven-day shoot and miniscule budget, the script having been storyboarded just prior to filming. Laden with overlapping dialogue and awkward pauses, the improvisational interplay between the leads proves consistently engaging without feeling overeager or mawkish.
Ellipsis really does feel like it was shot entirely in one evening, and that’s to Wenham’s credit. The couple flit through Sydney’s colorful nightlife, crossing paths with weird and wonderful characters. Unfolding rather like an Antipodean fever dream, their journey takes us from popular sightseeing hotspots like Bondi Beach (filmed as if an advertisement for Australia’s popular tourist destination) to the seedier elements of after-hours recreation, including a surprisingly hilarious sex shop set-piece. Wenham’s approach ensures that this spontaneity and ephemeral sense of adventure never dissipates, the director ably capturing the solitude of being young and alone in a big city and the unexpected kinship of finding a kindred spirit. To a less successful degree, the film attempts to liken the isolation of urban living to the struggle of immigrants to adapt to their new surroundings; an underdeveloped subplot involving a Chinese repair man employed to fix Viv’s phone is too obvious in its messaging. It also feels a bit slighted by its pedigreed homages: techniques to illicit affection for the couple’s eventual parting include a blatant nod to Woody Allen’s legendary Annie Hall, while the withholding of a vital exchange in the denouement recalls Sofia Coppola’s similarly soulful tale of happenstance, Lost in Translation. Ellipsis doesn’t rank with those, but Wenham proves the power of an understated, nostalgic approach to romance, reminding that few things are as satisfying as a well told, deeply felt love story.
You can currently stream David Wenham’s Ellipsis on Amazon Prime.