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Actor Fran Olds in Births, Deaths & Marriages. Photo/Supplied

A New Zealand comedy finds beauty in the mundane

A film by a New Zealand writer/director finds beauty in the mundane.

Writer/director Bea Joblin was 20 when she shot her first feature film, Births, Deaths and Marriages – with a budget of $6000 and her mother, Geraldine Brophy, playing one of the lead roles. Filmed as a series of home videos, the shoot took three weeks, with all the action taking place inside an Upper Hutt state house (“chaotically shoe-horned into one space,” is how Joblin puts it). By the time it premiered last July at the New Zealand International Film Festival, five years and some serious post-production polishing had gone by, and Joblin had a wee girl of her own.

Now set for nationwide release from 3 March, Births, Deaths and Marriages embeds with the Kiwi-Irish Hart family for a single weekend as they deal with a runaway bride, an unexpected death (well, at least the wedding flowers won’t go to waste) and the imminent birth of a baby – with the mum-to-be labouring in a paddling pool in the same bedroom as the recently deceased.


Joblin reckons she’s always moved through the world observing the absurdity of human relationships, storing up scenes in her head. “That easily translates into comedy, because we’re all so tragic in the way we try and fail to relate to each other all the time, and that’s really funny if you’re paying attention to it.”

The female-dominated cast of 21 turns the tables by including only a handful of male supporting roles. “Often, as women, we have to kind of pick up the scraps and only get to see ourselves in these orbital female characters that serve male stories,” says Joblin, who hopes her film reveals “that moments of unexpected beauty lie in the mundanity of every family’s life”.

See Births, Deaths and Marriages at New Zealand cinemas from 3 March.

This article was first published in the March 2020 issue of North & South. Follow North & South on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and sign up to our fortnightly email for more New Zealand stories.