Shirley Barrett’s debut, Love Serenade is an oblique vision of love and sex in an isolated Australian town. A shade overlong, pic is nonetheless full of delights.
Vicki-Ann and Dimity Hurley, sisters in their 20s, live in a small house in a dusty, seemingly under-populated town of Sunray. Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith) runs a Unisex hair salon called Hairport, reads cheap romantic fiction and wears various shades of pink. Her kid sister, 20-year-old Dimity (Miranda Otto), spends her days aimlessly riding around the dusty streets on her bicycle; in the evening, she works as a waitress at the town’s Chinese restaurant.
And so life goes on until Ken Sherry (George Shevtsov) drives into town to take over the local one-man radio station. A child of the hippie era now well into middle age, Sherry is a jaded hedonist who’s dropped out. Inevitably, he seduces both sisters.
The filmmaker has a wry, offbeat sense of humor, and a delight in the foibles and eccentricities of her characters.
Otto (daughter of actor Barry Otto) is touching as the sensitive and vulnerable yet unexpectedly tenacious Dimity. Newcomer Frith has the trickiest role as the rather crass Vicki-Ann, but succeeds in not tipping the sometimes irritating older sister into caricature.
Mandy Walker’s widescreen cinematography beautifully captures the details of this one-horse town, and Steven Jones-Evans’ production design is remarkable for its witty detail.