Two Friends

Director: Jane Campion
Year: 1986
Country: Australia
Running time: 80 mins

Production co: Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Producer: Jan Chapman
Screenplay: Helen Garner
Photography: Julian Penney
Editor: Bill Russo
Production designer: Janet Patterson
Costume designer: Wendy Chuck
Sound: Des Horne
Music: Martin Armiger

Louise: Emma Coles
Kelly: Kris Bidenko
Janet, Louise's mother: Kris McQuade
Jim, Louise's father: Stephen Leeder
Alsion, Janet's friend: Kerry Dwyer
Chri, Kelly's mother: Debra May
Malcolm, Kelly's stepfather: Peter Hehir
Helen, Kelly's half-sister: Lisa Rogers
Charlie, Kelly's father: Tony Barry
Renato: Giovanni Marangoni
Matthew: Sean Travers

Festivals: Cannes (Un Certain Regard), Sydney, Melbourne 1986
Easily the best dramatic feature I've seen from Australia or New Zealand in the last year, Two Friends could only, alas, have been made in Australia, where it was produced by Jan Chapman as a telefeature for the ABC. It pins down the Australian experience – and ambience – so distinctively, originally and pungently that it’s likely to mean a great deal more to New Zealand audiences than have most New Zealand films – and too women, in particular. It’s the tale of two friends, girls who’ve entered their teens inseparable, but are prised apart by temperment, class and experience. It’s resolutely of the 80s and yet it resonates with a thousand echoes of Australian adolescence that you may have thought were peculiar to whatever year it was when you were fifteen. Garner’s script proceeds backwards through time from a point where Louise, a bright, diligent schoolgirl and Kelly, a Bondi punkette, seem utterly unalike. We are drawn back to a high point in their camaraderie a year earlier, when the seed of their separate development is barely discernible. We see five periods in between, each one a roundly informative, crisply delivered resume, covering the many tributaries that flow into the everyday heartbreak that’s taking place before our eyes. It’s helluva sad, but the structure plays against sentimentality and makes us focus on exactly what’s going on. Campion’s capacity to distil the pains and confusions of growing up is nicely complemented by Garner’s generous, wry, humour. Campion retrieves and incorporates many of the themes and methods from her earlier, wonderful short films and it’s immensely satisfying to watch such a gifted young filmmaker progress at her own, measured stride. Don’t miss out on this film. — Bill Gosden