Monday, October 26, 2020

NewFest Spotlight: Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt)

I’m delighted to be covering a number of selections from the 32nd Annual New York LGBTQ+ Film Festival, NewFest. The festival runs October 16th-27th, 2020, and films are available to watch anywhere in the United States during that time.

Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt)
Directed by Monica Zanetti
Ticket Information

Many teenagers – and people of all ages – feel that no one can relate to them or what they’re going through, and the notion of having a support system there not to judge but only to empathize and help might be very comforting. It’s rare to find assistance like that with no strings attached or opinions that are not at least partially at odds with a person’s own perspective. Because no two people’s experiences can be exactly the same, there’s bound to be conflict, but it should still feel good to have someone there hoping and even betting on your success.

Ellie (Sophie Hawkshaw) is an overachieving high school student in Australia. She’s eager to ask her crush, Abbie (Zoe Terakes), to the formal, but hasn’t found the courage or the words to do so yet. She comes out to her mother (Marta Dusseldorp), and is startled when she is suddenly visited by Tara (Julia Billington), her aunt who died before she was born. Tara claims to be her “Fairy Gaymother” who can now help her wishes come true now that she has spoken aloud that she is gay. Ellie is in disbelief but also in desperate need of a plan to make her feelings known for Abbie in a way that isn’t completely embarrassing.

This film’s concept could come off as a silly stretch, but instead it’s one that works very well. Tara can’t remember how she died and isn’t concerned with that particular detail, and she instead channels her excitement at the idea of being able to guide her niece on the right path, lesbian to lesbian. Ellie isn’t lacking confidence, just organization, a humorous problem given her academic proficiency. The relationship they form is unusual but endearing, especially as it offers Ellie the opportunity to learn more about who her mother and her longtime best friend Patty (Rachel House) used to be.

In her second feature film role, Hawkshaw is a delight, focused and hyper but still all over the place as Ellie. Terakes makes Abbie more than just the objection of Ellie’s affection, giving her attitude and opinions that only serve to render Ellie stunned and speechless. Billington is sweet and wonderful, channeling such positivity for her niece, echoed by House and communicated in a more complicated way by Dusseldorp as her struggling parent. This film is a winning comedy that also smartly and stirringly navigates drama, using its fantastical premise to tell a charming and loveable story.


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