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Australia 2021
Directed by
Adam Morris
92 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Edward And Isabella

Jean-Paul Sartre famously said “Hell is other people” but then again Barbra Streisand reckoned “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world”. Most of us spend our lives strung out between these two seemingly irreconcilable points of view. Edward (Daniel Barwick) and Isabella (Chloe Hunt) are two such specimens in Adam Morris’s up-close-and-personal portrait of a relationship which is feeling the strain of familiarity.

The thirty-something Perth couple have gone to Isabella’s father’s country house near Albany on the Southern Coast of Western Australia in order to spend some quality time together and, though it is not articulated as such, evaluate their commitment to the long haul.

Despite the film’s title Isabella is the film’s principal focus as it switches between her and Edward’s interactions and ongoing counselling sessions in which she struggles to give words to her feelings to an unseen psychologist. Some may consider this device a bit of a cheat but Morris doesn’t use it as an easy get-out to well-written, thoughtful dialogue but rather uses it a kind of meta-narrative marker for the more ad hoc exchanges between the couple.

The road trip/vacation is a well-established metaphoric strategy for placing characters outside their day-to-day routine, the exploration of the unfamiliar in the external world having its inner equivalences.  Watching Edward and Isabella I couldn’t help but be reminded of Roberto Rossellini’s Journey In Italy (1952) and Antonioni’s L’avventura (1960) not to mention, albeit to a lesser extent Alexander Payne’s Sideways (2004). Which is not to say that there are overt resemblances here but rather that whilst Morris’s screenplay is palpably Australian in ethos it is built on foundations which are universal.

If Morris’s script is persuasive in depicting the couple’s relationship the film’s other strong hand is the performances by Barwick and Hunt. I don’t know if they were an item before they started filming but the easy intimacy they generate is thoroughly convincing.

Edward and Isabella is a micro-budgeted labour of love and as such at times the joinery is less than perfect. There were a couple of places (a black-out and some pillow talk) when the sound-recording is muffled and though there is a credit for a “set dresser” some work on the psychologist’s office was sorely needed – a box of tissues just doesn’t cut it.

Overall the film could have been shorter or differently shaped. I could see no reason why we needed to devote seven minutes to Edward and Isabella pickling eggs and in general the pacing is a little too flat. Fortunately, just as this is beginning to tell Edward  and Isabella go for a night at the pub with some sing-along live music that picks things up enough to get us over the line.

The use of music is an asset. Not only is the score by Jonathan Jie Hong Yang nicely understated but impressive use is made of the incidental songs. This includes an attractively melancholic gypsy swing number that book-ends the film, a rousing sampling of Verdi and Morris himself contributing his own tasty rendition of the blues classic 'Wang Dang Doodle (All Night Long)' which is cheekily inserted into the film's diegesis.

If writer-director Morris is evidently more developed as a verbal rather than a visual artist Edward and Isabella is still a commendable and engaging first foray into film.




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