Friends and Strangers
Friends and Strangers, the feature film debut from Sydney filmmaker James Vaughan, made its Melbourne premiere at ACMI in March after charming audiences on the festival circuit in Europe, Asia and the US.
Twentysomethings Alice (Emma Diaz) and Ray (Fergus Wilson) take a spontaneous camping pitstop on a road trip home to Sydney. They’re not romantic interests, they’re not really friends, so what are they doing there, lying side-by-side in a tent in the middle of nowhere…? How do we find ourselves in these situations, and for that matter, why do any of us do anything, ever? Friends and Strangers is a chaotic and contemplative exploration of colonialism, privilege and existential ennui in 2020s Australia – the new Australian ‘mumblecore’.
Vaughan’s capture of Sydney focuses on a particular slice of Aussie ‘ordinariness’. From pretty seaside jaunts, to the expansive living rooms of affluent Eastern-suburbanites, there’s a spectrum of white Australia on display, romantically shot by cinematographer Dimitri Zaunders. There are fleeting moments that show off that glorious Harbour, and even more fleetingly, the sweaty inner-city, working-class backstreets, the only place that appears purposed with activity.
There’s a deliberate disaffection built into this film, a generalised ‘drift’, and much like the open-plan houses and loose, care-free days, the dialogue, quintessentially Aussie, has an infinite ellipsis at the end of each sentence. It’s as if the characters have forgotten something, or everything.
Gleefully absurd, deadpan and unobtrusively political, Friends and Strangers marks the arrival of a bold new voice in Australian cinema.