It’s the familiar story we’ve seen play out in movies a million times over; one of lust, forbidden sexual desires and a seemingly inseparable bond between two young lovers. More often than not these clichéd and formulaic films will conclude with a sickeningly happy ending obvious from the very beginning.
That’s where Mekelle Mills’ Zoe.Misplaced differs from other romantic genre films. With her sharp and engrossing script you’re never quite sure where the narrative is heading and whether Zoe, the lead protagonist, is durable enough to last her newfound love affair or fall victim to it.
Another obvious contrast with Mills’ debut feature film is that it’s structured around a lesbian relationship. A gay romance is nothing new to the world of cinema but it’s one that’s seldom seen in the Australian film market.
Zoe, played by the very talented and gorgeous Hannah Raven Smith, is a twenty something Sydneysider who spends most of her spare time watching Dawson’s Creek reruns, knitting and chain-smoking.
Her regimented life turns upside down when she’s introduced to Nat – her roommate Coal’s ex girlfriend but current sexual partner. Instantly there’s a mutual attraction between Zoe and the sultry blond and the two begin dating despite Coal’s disapproval.
“Zielinski’s performance as a betrayed best friend is an exceptional one.”
Zoe.Misplaced is the product of a successful crowdfunding campaign which reached well above it’s intended target. This would have been encouraging but the problem with shooting a film with an $8000 budget is that it’s going to look like it was shot on an $8000 budget.
The film’s camera work is intrusive and often scatters between various styles – the result of an unusual decision by Mills to shoot with two cinematographers and two different cameras. I get that it’s meant to be a portal into the normal and natural life of these characters but surely having half of someone’s head completely out of frame warrants a reshoot.
The lead actors are all fantastic, especially Kaska Zielinski as Coal. Her performance as a betrayed best friend is an exceptional one and I hope to see more of the young actress in future films. Ex-rugby leaguer John Manning is also a standout as a concerned brother to Raven Smith’s Zoe.
With Zoe.Misplaced, Mills showcases so much talent as a writer/director and has a bright future as a daring filmmaker ahead of her but will be better off leaving camera and editing duties to someone more experienced.
Directed by: Mekelle Mills
Starring: Hannah Raven Smith, Kaska Zielinski and Clementine Mills
Review by: Matthew Eeles