Words || Cameron Colwell
Set in Sydney’s club scene with a queer protagonist, All About E should’ve been my film of the year. Unfortunately, while its premise about Lebanese-Australian DJ E (Mandahla Rose), who dreams of taking more control of her career, sounds promising, its plot starts off as charmingly quaint and verges into aggressive incredulousness from the moment E and her flamboyant best friend Matt stumble upon a bag full of cash the morning after E plays a set. As it happens, the bag belongs to E’s boss, scummy nightclub owner Johnny Rock (Simon Bolton.) The camp exuberance that propels the vivid and exciting opening scene falters almost immediately, as dimwit plot twists form bigger and bigger insults to the intelligence of the audience. E sets off on a cross-country adventure with the money for the same reason anyone does anything in this film, which is that the plot has compelled them to.
We learn, through a series of tacked-on flashbacks, that E is still getting over a relationship from a year ago, with a woman named Trish. (Julia Billington) The relationship between the two is the most emotionally engaging part of the film, which isn’t saying too much: Apparently they spent most of the duration of their time together exchanging B-movie level platitudes, building up to arguments about E’s relationship to her parents, who do not know she is living with a woman.
While there are other subplots, including Matt’s issues with his weight as a gay man and E’s old career as a flautist, each of these peter out into unsatisfying nothingness. The film clearly isn’t interested in the emotional lives of its characters, preferring to move to its next plot point before anybody notices one of the glaring holes within the narrative.
However, Mandalah Rose deserves credit for finding depth and warmth within her character’s Strong Female Character archetype, as does Brett Rogers for embracing the vaguely offensive campness of Matt, despite the total lack of quality humour within the writing.
There are glimpses, within All About E, of a better, more cohesive and more tender story. Most of these occur when E and Trish reunite in the outback, the characters go silent, and the actors are allowed to shine through the bland cardboard lines of the script. Members of the audience who watch purely for the relief of seeing a film with a same-sex relationship will firmly not be disappointed by the film’s love scene, which is heartfelt, intense, and thankfully wordless. The direction in the better scenes of the film, as director Louise Wadley indulges in the wild beauty of Australia’s outback, make one long for the 21st Century queer classic the film that could’ve been, if the writer had chosen to focus the story on the lives of the characters rather than zany plot twists. The movie does, admittedly, maintain enough naive charm to not seem completely unsalvagable. However, the ending is so aggressively corny that any goodwill the audience might have retained is drowned by schmaltz. I felt tackier for enduring it. 1.5/5