Just Between Us
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (13th December 2018).
The Film

"Just Between Us" (2017)

Hannah (played by Deanna Ortuso) is a young woman whose life is at an awkward standstill. At her workplace she is basically invisible to other coworkers. Her lovelife is non-existent. Things have also been down with the one year anniversary of her older sisterís passing, but the loneliness turns around with the unexpected appearance of the ghost of her older sister Bee (played by Calista Fooks) in her home. From the encounter comes a final wish from Bee to her younger sister, and that is for Hannah to complete the unfinished journey that Bee was taking until her life was cut short. To accompany the road trip is their childhood friend Trixie (played by Joanne Nguyen) and off they go on a journey that will be much more than just a fulfilment for Bee, but an adventure filled with wackiness, awkwardness, and with some danger.

"Just Between Us" follows the heels of films such as Girls Trip", "Rough Night" and "Bridesmaids" in terms of female road trip comedies, though this one being on a smaller more intimate scale and also being homegrown in Australia. The indie production was done with a minimal cast and crew with many of the staff doing multiple tasks. Actress Deanna Ortuso was also the producer and the writer of the screenplay. Actress Joanne Nguyen was also a producer. Christopher Kay directed as well as edited the film. Even on a small scale as of staff members, the film does seem quite big with the various southern Australian locations utilized from the cityscapes to the rural areas and even the seas. Being a road trip movie it is expected that various locations from multiple locations would be used and the film does exactly that and in a quite satisfying way. From the very first frame from inside a stale office environment, the viewers are taken everywhere the leads go as a fourth passenger in a way. But is this a journey worth taking?

Being a road trip comedy there are some cliches that the film unfortunately goes through. How the relationship of the leads change during the course, troubles that they encounter along the way, arguments, sex, accidents, and ultimately the destination. There are however some things that are fresh to the genre. One of the passengers being an apparition, Australia on screen, the fairly small cast, for examples. As the strongest point should be the comedy, this is the unfortunate point where things do not live up to expectations. Some of the jokes and situations are fairly flat. The number of times Hannah gets hit in the face becomes a tiring gag, the antics that Bee could do as a ghost are not used as well as they could or as much as one expects. The pacing also has issues. There are parts where the journey seems stalled like the rugby game or the music festival. Not to say they were unnecessary as both scenes had some plot points, but rugby seemed like a bit too much while the fest scene was almost too short. As for the relationships between the three leads, sadly things never seem to really click between them as well as they should have. Hannah and Bee didn't seem much like sisters. Personality-wise, or even in looks, the two were seemed closer to being strangers or friends rather than family. As for Trixie, her relationship to them also felt like a distant friend or an acquaintance rather than someone from their childhood. Though "Just Between Us" is not entirely a disaster at all. There are quite a few chuckles along the way with some wacky situations and there are quite a few touching moments between the sisters in a few scenes especially nearer towards the end. The situations like the kidnapping, the cameo by John Jarratt give some fun, and Kaarin Fairfax being a wild grandma was a scene stealer.

Overall the film tries to have heart, but ultimately feels slightly stale in its execution. Without a strong connection between the characters, the whole journey is more of a selection of mishaps and not a flowing comedic piece. "Just Between Us" has some great ideas, but leaves viewers wanting something more.

Note this is a region 0 PAL DVD

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement in the PAL format. Being a recent film shot in HD it certainly looks crisp and clean with bright colors and fine details. It is well balanced though there were some minor issues with macroblocking on walls in a few scenes with the standard definition transfer. Overall, it is a fine transfer for the film

The runtime is 105:40.



















Audio

English Dolby Digital 5.1
The 5.1 track seems to be mixed incorrectly from start to finish. Rather than the standard of dialogue coming from the center speaker while the surround speakers used for music, effects, and sometimes directional dialogue, this has the entire opposite. The center speaker has no voices, but instead has all the music and effects in mono. All the dialogue comes from the left, right, left surround, and right surround speakers, and also basically in mono having the voices blazing from all directions except where the mouths are. This doesn't seem to be an artistic choice and seems like a mistake in the mixing. Umbrella Entertainment has been notified of the issue.

There are no subtitles offered for the main feature.

Extras

"On Set with Cast & Crew" featurette (8:28)
Made up of interviews with Christopher Kay, Filip Laureys, and the three main actresses, talked about are the messages of the film, working together with the cast and crew, pulling various strings on the tight budget, and details about the characters.
in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"What Is Your Ultimate Road Trip?" featurette (1:43)
A montage of short interviews with the many cast and crew describing their ideal road trip destinations.
in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Packaging

The package states "region 4" only but is in fact a region 0 DVD.

Overall

"Just Between Us" is a road trip comedy on a smaller scale with heartfelt ideas, but overall falls flat with the characters and pacing. The picture quality is good, but the audio track issue should be a major concern for anyone looking to make a purchase.

The Film: C Video: A- Audio: F Extras: C- Overall: C-

 


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