Comedy movies are hard work. Time travel movies are even harder. So combining the two is a big ask. But Australian actor turned director Josh Lawson does a good job with the time-travelling rom-com Long Story Short. This agreeable film zips along – literally – to a crowd pleasing conclusion.
The film’s clever title tells you exactly what it does. The film covers 10 years in the life of Teddy (Rafe Spall) in an economical 90 minutes. Lawson achieves this by having Teddy zip through those years, spending only 7 minutes or so in each. So Teddy’s “long story” is, indeed, “short”.
In the opening few minutes, the film follows the whirlwind romance between Teddy and Leanne (Zahra Newman). A chance meeting at a New Year’s Eve party turns into a relationship and a proposal. But Teddy procrastinates – a lot. While visiting his father’s grave, Teddy encounters a stranger (Noni Hazlehurst). She gives him some cryptic advice; but also manages to cajole Teddy into action. The wedding happens two weeks later. After the ceremony, Teddy and Leanne return home. While going through the gifts, they find a mysterious tin can with a note directing that it not be opened for 10 years.
When Teddy wakes the next morning, he discovers it’s not a day later – it’s a year later. Understandably disoriented, he lies down for a few minutes; only to get up to find another year has gone by. Teddy is jumping forward a year every few minutes, giving him a snapshot view of his life. And it’s not all pretty.
The elephant in this cinematic room of course is Groundhog Day (which Lawson references directly). Although it’s not exactly the same scenario, you can see the parallels. You can also add in Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and maybe a dash of A Christmas Carol (incidentally, made into another Bill Murray film in Scrooged). While Lawson might have a way to go to match Capra, he delivers a film with an intriguing premise and a winning attitude. Long Story Short has a similar look and feel to Lawson’s The Little Death; so if you enjoyed that, chances are this is the film for you.
Rafe Spall (Men in Black: International) gives a fine performance as Teddy. The character has to go from total bewilderment to resigned acceptance, and Spall nails all the transitions. Zahra Newman (Wentworth) similarly delivers as the down-to-earth Leanne. Since the script concentrates on those two characters, the supporting cast is limited. Ronnie Chieng (Crazy Rich Asians) gets the best of the smaller roles as Teddy’s best friend Sam. Australian living treasure Noni Hazlehurst is charming as the stranger. Lawson himself pops up in a funny little cameo, while Dena Kaplan (Occupation: Rainfall) gets the short straw in the demanding role of Teddy’s ex-girlfriend Becca.
Long Story Short is about as charming a Valentines Day movie as you could wish for. Don’t try to analyse the plot too closely (spoiler: there are some holes in it) but think of it as a pretty much ideal “date movie”.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television