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The Moon is Upside Down

This is a literate, clever and blackly funny gem

★★★★ - STUFF

- Kiwi comedy a clever and blackly funny gem-

The Moon is Upside Down unfolds over a handful of days.

At a city airport, Natalia arrives from Siberia. She is here to marry the quiet and taciturn Mack, who owns a run-down rural garage and a space that might one-day be a café. Mack is there, as promised, with a fistful of tattered chrysanthemums and a guarded smile. But he has brought big sister Hilary along, who seems none-too-impressed with Natalia.

"Well aren't you a stunner...in your own way", mutters Hilary.

One of the quirks that bind Hilary and Mac, is that while Mac only looks at the world by turning his head sideways to it, so Hilary mostly addresses people from the side of her mouth, as though even she is embarrassed by her own rebarbative wit.

Meanwhile, across town, wealthy Faith and her unseen husband Alan have bought another block of flats for their portfolio. "We'll be demolishing," says Faith to the obsequious estate agent, while a couple of tenants look on. Later that day, the police will call to say a body has been found – and it has lain there for a month.

And nearby, at a city hospital, anaesthetist Briar rushes to finish her shift, so she can make her Skype call with hunky new boyfriend Tim. Their relationship has only been conducted online. But Briar knew Tim well years before, when he was her big sister's childhood sweetheart. And now Tim is flying in for the weekend. A camping trip is planned.

These three women, Natalia, Faith and Briar, are unconnected for now. But fate is about to have them brush up against each other. And, in the audience, we might start to see some threads that bind them.

The Moon is Upside Down is the debut feature from writer and director Loren Taylor. The Wellington film community can be a tiny village and so I even did some work on the film myself. It was a lot of fun, running around the hills above Wellington's south coast, like someone who had a real job for a change. As always, I didn't read the script and I left at the end none the wiser about the project. I just knew the people involved were lovely and I wished them well.

The Moon is Upside Down has turned out just fine. The three narratives intertwine and talk to each other in unexpected ways which I can only guess must have taken long days in the edit suite.

Another New Zealand film-maker – and she is an absolute legend – once said to me, "I like films with characters who I believe can exist off the screen".

I think that's a pretty good way of gauging whether a drama is well-written, and The Moon is Upside Down clears the bar with daylight to spare. Whether this film exists or not, there are Natalias, Faiths and Briars out there right now, trying to extract themselves from the attentions of inadequate men and maybe reassert the direction they once had, before society and all its detritus got in the way.

Elizabeth Hawthorne and Australian Victoria Haralabidou play Faith and Natalia, while Taylor takes the role of Briar herself. All three are pretty much perfect. In support, Robyn Malcolm, Jemaine Clement, Rachel House and Robbie Magasiva bring the house down when required, with Malcolm and Clement managing to be both deeply awful and quietly heart-breaking as the marooned siblings Hilary and Mac.

The Moon is Upside Down will be a polarising and provocative entry into the local roster. It swings from tender and reflective one moment, to raucous and gleefully filthy the next, without striking a false note.

It is a film that asks us to fill in some of the backstory ourselves and be prepared to change our opinions of the people on-screen. There is certainly no one here who is wholly bad or blameless, except Natalia perhaps, who is probably the latter.

This is a literate, clever and blackly funny gem. It won't be for everyone, but I think if you like The Moon is Upside Down at all, you'll probably love it. Bravo.

- Graeme Tuckett, STUFF

The Moon is Upside Down is now playing at Light House Cinema! 

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