Ellie and Abbie
Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) starring Martha Dusseldorp

Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) Is A teen lesbian rom-com that bundles humour, heart and history into a beautifully crafted narrative.

Upon entering Event Cinemas George St. at 6:45 pm on Thursday the 13th of February, I was immediately struck by how excited the significant crowd seemed. It was to be expected, with the opening night of the 2020 Mardi Gras Film Festival featuring a hometown film for the first time in its twenty-seven-year history.

A sense of pure joy flowed around the room, moving through the crowd like the volunteers who were scanning tickets and handing out voting slips. Every so often, a cheer erupted from somewhere in the line, turning heads and causing echoing cheers to follow. Excitement for history is being made.

We sat towards the front, eating our complimentary chop tops, and I caught myself wondering if the joy and excitement of the room would be reflected in the piece of cinema we were about to watch. I was not disappointed.

The film opens with Ellie (Sophie Hawkshaw – Love Child) sitting on the toilet, scrolling six months back in Abbie’s (Zoe Terakes – Wentworth) Instagram. After a near-death (by embarrassment) moment, she makes her way to school, and we find out that it is Formal season, not Prom, according to Ellie’s maths teacher. All of the motivational quotes must have been helping her confidence because she almost asks Abbie to the formal in the library. No, she didn’t steal the roses; she was just borrowing them. Later, her dead lesbian aunt Tara, or fairy godmother, played by the show-stealing Julia Billington, suggests that it would have been a ridiculous plan. She also struggles to understand modern technology, which allows for some genuinely hilarious moments involving texting and the internet.

Marta Dusseldorp puts in an incredible performance as Erica, Ellie’s worried mother, appears to be initially resistant to her daughter’s queerness. However, throughout the film, her trauma and grief paint a sense of complexity not often explored in mainstream media narratives. Rachel House plays Patty, Erica’s lesbian best friend and Ellie’s proxy Aunt, who moves beautifully in the light and shade of someone keeping their mind off the past while trying to be fully present in the present.

It is a refreshing narrative that does not touch on bullying because of sexuality. As the film goes on, it can be understood that it is because of the blood spilled on the streets by those who fought for queer rights in the past that those in the present can live truthfully and without fear.

Ellie can pursue Abbie freely and without fear because of the queer people in the past who lived and died trying to defend themselves, their community, and their right to exist. It does take a moment to call to attention the more ‘accepted’ forms of homophobia present in schools today, little things that, as Zoe Terakes mentioned in the post-film Q&A, “create tiny scars that you don’t recognise until you’re older.”

With half of the cast made up of queer actors, there is a sense of tangibility to this film that had me thoroughly engrossed. Although not particularly fast-paced, Monica Zanetti guides her audience with a loving hand through this narrative of young love, grief, forgiveness, and self-discovery. Some moments will make you laugh out loud, make you cry real tears, and make you want to dive deep into the history of homosexuality in Australia.

It reminds people that Oxford street is more than a place with bars and a rainbow flag; it is both a battleground and a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Films like “Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt)” prove to the general populous that love stories are not inherently heterosexual, that these implied imaginaries are just that – imaginary. They show that, despite what television of the past has told lesbian youth, there can be a happy ending, and that happy ending comes by withstanding all the peaks of troughs life generates. This film is important for young people, older people, queer people, allies and anyone who has ever believed in love.