Tender is a short film written and directed by Australian filmmaker Jessica Redenbach. I had the good fortune to catch it one night on SBS Shorts on Screen. It is the story of Max and Cate. They meet, forget to exchange names, they fuck. After what could easily be dismissed as a one night stand they meet again. They chat. Max is an artist. Cate is funny and charming. They fuck. There is no restraint. It’s just sex and Cate appears to be in control. Then something changes. Cate’s bravado begins to waiver. Somewhere in amongst the casual sex, fun conversations and laughter a need for intimacy invades Cate. She begins to appear clingy. Her repeated phone calls a little desperate. Her daily life seems like a robotic forced distraction from her thoughts of Max. As Cate falls in love, Max remains distant until the final moments of the film when things become too familiar. The fantasy is replaced with harsh reality and Cate is left despondent.
This is such a subtle, delicate film. I was blown away by the performances and progression of the story. I had never seen Angus Sampson in a dramatic role before but he is perfectly cast as Max, a fairly uncomplicated, happy go lucky guy. Katie-Jean Harding brings something very special to the seemingly carefree Cate. Her descent into disconsolateness could easily be dismissed as the actions of a wild and naive woman but instead her forlornness cuts through you like a knife. Her eyes, once so alive and playful, are now sad and clouded with an unsatisfied longing. You want her to receive the love she desires. You want Cate to succeed in her quest. This is what makes this film so brilliant, so tangible. You are drawn into the world of these characters and left wondering about their fate long after the credits.
[image courtesy of Darley Street Disco]