(Jessica Redenbach, Australia, 2011)


Jessica Redenbach’s Tender is an acutely well written, directed and acted short film.


It tackles something which is very difficult in cinema: to tell the story of a new, intimate relationship, not through dialogue or conventional scenes of interaction, but almost solely through highly physical scenes of sexual contact.


Redenbach succeeds where many other filmmakers (including Michael Winterbottom with 9 Songs) have failed. Too often in cinema there is an excessive mood-psychologisation of sex scenes (even in Gaspar Noé’s Love, for instance): happy fuck, sad fuck, vacant-eyes fuck, angry fuck …


Redenbach, by contrast, stays close to the palpable, carnal reality of erotic encounters, but also manages to stylise and abstract proceedings just enough to raise this brief tale to a higher plane of mood and expression.


There is a relationship drama here, but it is suggested, told in vivid fragments, rather than laboriously spelt out for us.


Tender is graced by an especially wonderful performance by Katie-Jean Harding, who also appears in an earlier, notable work by Redenbach, Invasion (2009). This short captures well that weird zone of human behaviour which strange or traumatic experiences can launch a person into – David Cronenberg territory, in a way. Some slightly blurred moments in the cinematography give a good force to the piece. Tender is more accomplished direction-wise, but the two films make a good double.


Tender is a triumph of the short form, announcing in Jessica Redenbach (who has also done scripting for TV series) an Australian writer-director of enormous promise.


© Adrian Martin February 2012 / August 2017

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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