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JUST FRIENDS gets 7/10 Perth International Queer Film Festival


Directed by Annemarie van de Mond

Starring Josha Stradowski, Majd Mardo, Jenny Arean

7/10

The trauma of his father’s death is brought once more to the surface for Joris (Josha Stradowski), when his ashes are returned to the family due to his mother’s unwillingness to pay more for their upkeep. Unable to convince her to keep the remains at home, Joris searches for a way to say goodbye to his dad, but at the same time stumbles into a relationship with his grandmother’s cleaner Yad (Majd Mardo), a young man with his own parental issues.

Despite touching on a number of more dramatic subjects Just Friends never really examines them in any real depth. This is not to say that this Dutch romantic comedy is shallow, rather it is aware of the deeper issues of family, of the world, and certainly the rise of intolerance – but that is the background as opposed to the main focus of the film. At its heart Just Friends is a charmingly romantic film about young love, and the trials and tribulations of that, as our own self doubts and personal demons come into play. Those wider issues are the outside world, kept at bay by that bubble created by sharing an ear bud to listen to a Spotify playlist, or lying in a field of grass and cloudgazing.

Which is really the strength of Just Friends. Director Annemarie van de Mond can convey that bubble of bliss you experience with a new partner, when that chemical concoction racing through your brain narrows the world to just them and that moment. Van de Mond brings that into sharp vision with beautiful cinematography. She has an impish approach to filmmaking, often shifting our perceptions of the world, as what we view as soundtrack or an omnipotent camera view is often revealed to be diegetic. True, this may be a common weapon in many filmmakers’ arsenals, but rarely integrated as seamlessly as it is here. That approach melds with Just Friends’ sense of humour and grants a lightness of touch to the film, which adds to that brought by the charisma and chemistry of the two leads.

As such, Just Friends says both a lot and very little at the same time, but in an extremely pleasant manner. In its most simple form, this film is about acceptance – both of others, yourself, and especially of family. That message is a joy to hear.

DAVID O’CONNELL

Just Friends is playing as part of the Perth International Queer Film Festival, running from September 12-18 at The Backlot. Check website for details.

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