Released: 11th February
Seen: 18th July
I really do wish that I got to review a lot more Australian films here, it feels like I should because there should be a lot more of them available but unfortunately (due to a complex series of issues surrounding tax laws and funding bodies) there just aren’t that many made. Hell, the closest I’m gonna get to really doing Aussie films is whenever I talk about films that use us as a backlot. An actual Australian film with a fully Australian cast and crew feels rare these days (I believe the last one I did was The Dry way back at the start of the year) so when I find something like Long Story Short I feel excited to get to share a piece of Aussie culture that might have slipped through the cracks… and then I watch it and realise that it probably fell through the cracks because it’s threadbare and can fit through those cracks very easily.
Long Story Short is about Teddy (Rafe Spall) and Leanne (Zahra Newman), a happy little couple who are having a perfectly normal life. One day, while visiting Teddy’s father’s grave, they run into a strange woman (Noni Hazlehurst) who suggests heavily to them that they should hurry up and get married, which is a thing they’ve been putting off until the time is right. She gives them a little wedding gift and the next thing we know, they’ve gotten married… and then, about 5 minutes into the wedding day, a year passes for Teddy. Slowly he realises he’s trapped in a time loop where a year just goes by every few minutes and he has to watch while his marriage slowly dissolves around him and life passes him by. Can he stop the process of time taking away everything or is he going to just die of old age within 5 hours?
As a concept, Long Story Short has a lot going for it. The snapshots of time passing really create this interesting narrative that forces you to really pay attention in order to keep up with what’s happening. The short vignettes of every year that passes are kind of clever and makes for some good comedic settings… granted Long Story Short doesn’t take full advantage of those settings, choosing instead to just kind of spend almost a full hour stagnantly repeating the “Hey, time is moving fast” thing that we all caught in the first act but it still kinda works.
However, some elements of the story that keep being brought up just feel like they’re there because it’s what is expected in genre films where men learn hard lessons through supernatural means. We’re repeatedly told, for example, that Teddy works too hard and doesn’t spend enough time doing the photography he loves to do… at no point, pre-time loop, are we ever introduced to the idea that he works too hard or that he even likes photography. We learn about his peanut allergy, but not his job or his hobby. It feels like it’s there because “Man works too hard to enjoy life” is a well-used trope.
There’s also just the random cancer moment that’s dropped in to add some drama, which is often needed in comedies just to break things up but here it’s literally just thrown in for a few minutes for no reason other than an emotional beat. It also doesn’t help that the head covering to give the actor in question a “I’ve been through chemo and lost my hair” look is so bad that it stands out. It’s an added beat to a story that kinda needs to focus, and it’s a throw away side bit. It’s exactly as surprising as the “I got the results of the test back” moment from The Room, except with a mildly more likable character. Maybe if it was a little longer or there were some hints earlier it’d work, but it’s one scene and then he leaves the film and it’s so painfully abrupt that it feels weird.
Honestly the most likable character in Long Story Short only has two scenes and that’s the random strange woman played by Noni Hazlehurst. In two scenes she manages to completely steamroll everyone else in Long Story Short with charm and likability. Sure our main couple was cute and all but when you offer me a lesbian witch in a graveyard played by the woman who would read to Aussie kids on Play School… how is that not just an amazing thing? If nothing else, you should probably see this for her (especially those who aren’t Australian who might want to see a woman who is basically the Aussie equal to Betty White in terms of ‘lovable TV lady’, which in turn will help you understand why this is so funny).
Long Story Short, I wanted to like this more than I did. It’s still got some charm and the actors are talented and make the film work up to a point. It’s interesting enough to warrant some curious glances, but it’s not as good as it could be and relies heavily on a few big old cliches that just feel like they’re there for no reason. I wanted so much more out of this film that it just didn’t have the time to give me.