The crossroads are an interesting place to find oneself. They point towards future choices, remind us of where we’ve been, and can even force us to reckon with unfinished business. The plot device of family or friends gathered together for an event, funeral, party and so on has long been a fertile catalyst for engrosing character drama and Jonathan Wysocki’s feature directorial debut which closes this year’s Vancouver Queer Film Festival is no different.
Anxiety-ridden Gene (Nick Pugliese) is late for a Victorian-themed murder mystery party thrown by aspiring stage actress friend Rose (Anna Grace Barlow). Also invited are Bible-thumper Claire (Megan Suri), blasé opera singer Ally (Danielle Kay), and energetic extrovert Oscar (Nico Greetham) whom Gene is secretly crushing on. However, it’s 1994 and not an ideal time for any high-school senior to be out of the closet, even among these motley crew of drama geeks.
As the party progresses, unchecked threads begin to unravel amongst the group as Claire tries to overcome her prudish rep, Ally bristles at the lack of respect for her ambitions, Oscar struggles to conceal his failed college audition and Gene wavers on finally coming out to his sexually-conservative pals . Muddying the waters further is the arrival of too-cool-for-school dropout JD (Zak Henri) who attempts to divide the group by inviting select members to a cooler party.
Wysocki has weaved an engaging set of characters. Each is well drawn and portrayed by an immensely talented young cast who imbue their roles with heart and pathos. These drama kids would certainly be proud of the ones portraying them.
Unfortunately, the framework they operate in leaves something to be desired as we witness what seems like an endless series of mini-climaxes. One character will inadvertently insult another, they’ll fight, things get awkward, they’ll then move to another room and apologize, wash, rinse, repeat. It gets a tad exhausting at a point when the narrative should be at its most compelling.
Dramarama is the promising work of a director who has a knack for character drama if not necessarily the feature-length form. The precipice of the beginning of adult life is a relatable state no matter what age you are and one many of us are nostalgic for, yet may hesitate to relive again. Thank goodness for the vicarious experience of the movies.
Dramarama recently screened as part of VQFF and is also available to view on VOD