This new queer film revolves around high-schooler Ellie (Sophie Hawkshaw) who has a crush on her friend and classmate Abbie (Zoe Terakes) and must summon the courage to both come out to her mother and ask Abbie to the school formal.
Luckily for Ellie, the ghost of her dead lesbian aunt Tara (Julia Billington) shows up to dispense sage advice. Tara is quick to take exception to the label of “ghost,” stating that she prefers to be thought of as a fairy godmother, which becomes one of many recurring gags delivered skillfully by the instantly likeable Billington.
Ellie and Abbie debuted at the Mardi Gras Film Festival in February, and won the Audience Award for best feature.
It’s also proved a hit at film festivals with screenings around the country, and is opening in select cinemas next in November 19.
Filmmaker Monica Zanetti has adapted the movie from her own stage play of the same name.
Speaking to QNews.com.au Zanetti discussed the lack of same-sex rom-coms when she was growing up, particularly family-friendly films.
“My experience of coming out was similar in some ways to Ellie’s experience. I realised I liked someone, and I was so excited about that. I had this wonderfully supportive experience from my parents at the time. But as much as I wanted to write a really simple lesbian rom-com – because their really aren’t any in Australia – I couldn’t without acknowledging the people that have come before.”
Zanetti incorporated that history through the character of Tara, played by Billington. She said her openly gay uncle partly inspired the character.
“He lived openly my whole life, but he came out in the 1950s or 60s. He lived very true to himself in a time when I know how incredibly hard that would’ve been. Tara is fictional but she’s based on that knowledge that I had an easier time because of those who forged this path.”
Heartfelt performances from a mostly-LGBTQ cast lend the film a sense of immediacy and warmth. The real key to the film’s success, however, is director Zanetti’s compassion and empathy, which allow her to deliver a film that is light-hearted without being dismissive, and poignant without being preachy. In Ellie & Abbie, she skillfully weaves together comedy and drama to tell a beautiful, affirming story of young love.