For most, 24 hours can be mediocre, ordinary and indifferent or in the case of Ellipsis they can be life-changing. Acclaimed actor David Wenham presents his feature length directorial debut, Ellipsis, a film that shimmered on the program of the 2017 Sydney Film Festival. Ellipsis began as an experimental piece, one with a minuscule budget and filming schedule of “10 plus 1 days” as David Wenham describes it.
Upon the meeting of the protagonists Jasper (Benedict Samuel) and Viv (Emily Barclay), both characters are intensely committed to their phones typing and speaking about or relating to past tragedy that impacted their lives excessively. Viv and Jasper physically bump into each other, as a result Viv’s phone is cracked and inoperative. A natural, emotional and mostly platonic relationship forms and a 24 hour adventure takes place on the streets of Sydney.
Jasper first offers to pay for the repair of Viv’s phone and then accompanies her at a cafe where they sip on coffees and taste the awkwardness in the air surrounding them, the ice is then broken when they begin to travel together all around Sydney. Their adventures take place in locations that are purposefully not tourist destinations however, display the beauty and bizarre individuality of Sydney, a conscious choice by Wenham. On their journeys Viv and Jasper build a soul-mate like rapport and slowly reveal their past personal tragedies that shaped their personalities and eccentricities.
Dimension to the film is added by the inclusion of the parallel storyline of the Phone Repair Man (Ferdinand Hoang). This story is introduced as Viv’s phone must be fixed overnight, it is a small anecdote depicting the struggles and joys of family life. It gives an insight into the lives of people we meet in our everyday lives. This story shows the kindness of ordinary people and displays personal sacrifice and the selfless qualities that can lie in the personalities of complete strangers.
Although the film was shot in an unconventionally short time, there is no lack of warmth, emotion or character depth that usually requires time to develop. The hand-held cinematography of Simon Morris captures the natural spontaneity of the moment. The crew did not spend more than two hours in a location and only filmed in places that were not popular with tourists. Wenham wanted to present Sydney from a local point of view. The fast paced shooting time of the film captures the bright energy of the city, a fantastic directorial quality.
The performances from Emily Barclay and Benedict Samuel are unalloyed from the touch of Hollywood and the peculiarities of the characters grow and develop as the film unfolds. Their presence and magnetism on screen is a result of the bountiful stories and dialogue that the characters share. This film can be compared to the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogies however, the improvisational scenes and dialogue, resulted in a film that cannot be recreated with the same charm, character and charisma as Ellipsis possesses.
Wenham’s directorial feature length debut was a successful experiment that transformed into a sparkling jewel of Australian cinema. A truly inspiring piece that will encourage Sydney-siders to fall in love with their city all over again.