Director David Wenham
Starring Benedict Samuel, Emily Barclay, Ferdinand Hoang
Ellipsis is a brave and measured directorial debut from actor David Wenham. When a project fell over he decided to throw caution to the wind and do an experimental film instead, shooting over 11 days in his hometown of Sydney after work-shopping the story with the actors over three days. Shooting mostly at night with one light and on location, the film has a beautiful, natural look that sinks into moments but is always on the move. It’s the little things in Ellipsis that are to be treasured and yes that includes things that go unsaid.
The premise is simple enough; Benedict Samuel plays Jasper who literally bumps into Viv (Emily Barclay) after several minutes of having his head buried in his phone. Viv understandably is not impressed, because her phone as a result is damaged and she’s flying out the next day overseas to her fiancé. Jasper takes full responsibility offering to let her use his phone. They drop her phone off to a repairman played by Ferdinand Hoang who is closing up for the day, but under the circumstances tells her he will have it fixed by 8am tomorrow.
Viv and Jasper end up at a café, where after using his phone, they’re stuck making small talk as they try to finish off their hot drinks. By the time the drinks are finished, they’ve admitted they’ve got nothing going on and agree to go to the world famous Bondi Beach to look at sculptures. Jasper is tall, polite, good looking and thankfully turns out not to have a deep dark secret like a torture room. Viv for her part has the good common sense to be guarded but the two gradually warm to each other. The story delights in how it surprises and features a number of real life city night life dwellers who were roped in to the film when the film crew came across them while shooting.
The cinematography from Simon Morris delights in observation, there are several shots of city streets from perches high above them. One character notes at one point that they used to know someone who enjoyed rooftop bars for their perspective. Not only is Jasper introduced ignoring his surroundings and focused on his phone, but the real life Sydney-siders who pass him during this shot seem to barely take notice or wish to ignore the obvious presence of the camera filming Benedict Samuel. Viv’s loss of her phone seems to liberate her and the whole night that transpires for the characters is due to them taking a chance to engage, not just with each other whom they just met, but a whole raft of strangers.
It’s obvious that Wenham is saying, “Be careful, there’s a whole world out there, don’t be afraid and let it pass you by.” But he juxtaposes this with the phone repairman’s home life as he dutifully does things for his family while trying to get around to fixing Viv’s phone. Hoang’s quiet performance speaks volumes and acts as a nice contrast to the young couple aimlessly wandering through the city as a middle aged man makes his mother smile after a hard day at work. Here Wenham too is saying why you can’t always be tied your phone, a phone, any phone.
The film seems the right length; a slice of life drama that plays as realistic can’t be melodramatic but also can’t wear out its welcome. How many things can happen in one night anyway? Ellipsis strikes the right balance, some scenes might engage more than others but the actors are likeable, the dialogue containing just the right amount of revelations to hook you in and enough awkward small talk to sound like own conversations. In the end you’ve enjoyed your time with Viv, Jasper and the phone repairman. Regarding the latter, you hope he and his wife get a similar night on the town sometime soon.