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Upper Hutt posse: The low-budget ensemble comedy delivering big laughs

 

BIRTHS, DEATHS & MARRIAGES
Directed by Bea Joblin

First-time feature director Bea Joblin makes an astonishly confident debut with Births, Deaths & Marriages. 

This lightly absurdist but surprisingly thoughtful Kiwi comedy takes the potential for strife inherent in a big family gathering and triples down.

It’s 1994 and somewhere in Upper Hutt. Bride-to-be Sinead has been jilted at the altar by her no-hoper fiance. Her grandma dies suddenly and her still-warm body is laid out in the spare bedroom so the extended Irish-New Zealand family can have a traditional wake. Meanwhile, Katherine, is upstairs in a plastic pool, waiting to deliver her baby while husband Ari complains that Māori tikanga isn’t being observed. Aunty Ngaire (Geraldine Brophy, also the director’s mother) picks up the matriarch baton and tries, and fails, to manage everyone’s disparate emotions. Luckily (or not), Aidan the wedding videographer is there to capture all the family dramas on VHS.

Births, Deaths & Marriages is strongest in its brilliant ensemble cast of straight-faced “characters”. The zippy, down-to-earth script delivers plenty of laughs, and there are several hilariously deadpan monologues – notably one from Aunty Pam (Emma Kinane), which walks a fine line between utter nonsense and stories-like-you’ve-heard-mothers-tell.

Joblin, who wrote and directed her astonishingly confident feature debut in her early 20s, shot it on a micro budget of $6000, in one location, over three weeks. The result is a gently enjoyable and recognisable slice of Kiwi life.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★1/2

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