Love Serenade

Director: Shirley Barrett
Screenwriters: Shirley Barrett

Institute History

  • 1997 Sundance Film Festival


Love Serenade is a surreal and comedic tale of romantic love and the bond between two sisters set in rural Australia. When a big-city disc jockey arrives in the country town of Sunray, the lives of the Hurley sisters are thrown into upheaval.

Ken Sherry, a midforties divorcé, has come to Sunray to escape the fast lane. Back in Brisbane, he was considered a radio personality, but here he hopes to disappear inside the small radio station, where he can drown his sorrows amongst his many Barry White love ballads. He rents a house next to two twenty-something sisters who are looking for any sort of distraction. Vicki-Ann, the older sister who works as a hairdresser, is worried about the lack of husband material their town has to offer. She develops an instant attraction to Ken, who pays her little attention in return. Dimity, the broody younger sister, is fascinated by Ken, but she’s not as daring at first. As Vicki-Ann begins to fantasize that he will become her future husband, Dimity secretly becomes involved with Ken. She is an innocent, swallowed up by the experienced older man who has offered to show her the ropes. There is also something otherworldly about Sperry; he’s smarmy yet sexy, with an obvious penchant for younger ladies and some strange-looking gills on the side of his neck.

Winner of the Camera d’ Or for best first feature at the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Shirley Barrett’s Love Serenade is a dazzling mixture of emotional tension and dark humor. As the film explores the coming of age of these two young women, their awkwardness in the world comes pouring through. The characters’ daily lives are specifically shaped by their small town, yet their romantic fantasies are universal. The role reversal of the two sisters and who ends up really taking care of whom offer a fascinating look at the bond of family.

A steamy sound track laden with seventies soul classics helps to capture the essence of this uniquely timeless locale. Brilliantly cast and superbly acted, Love Serenade succeeds in creating both a look and a feel of Australian provincial life rarely seen on screen.

— Lisa Viola

Screening Details

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