When Maeve (Bojana Novakovic) asks her longtime boyfriend Paul (Josh Lawson) to rape her, it’s fair to say we’re not in Kansas any more – nor Fountain Lakes, nor any other recognisable suburb of Australia’s typically cartoonish comedy landscape. The Little Death may hark back to the Alvin Purple era, when local moviegoers were genuinely keen on sex, but instead of focusing on leering and nudity it’s a comedy for adults exploring the unexpected impact on relationships when partners begin to act upon their unusual fetishes. Think a backyard Buñuel and you’re on the right track.
The kinks range from a henpecked husband (Alan Dukes) who finds the sight of his sleeping wife (Lisa McCune) impossibly erotic (somnophilia), to a woman (the hilarious Kate Box) unexpectedly turned on by her husband’s tears (daryphilia). A self-contained sequence of high farce features a translator for the deaf (Erin James) as the meat in the sandwich of an uncomfortably saucy phone call, while Kym Gyngell’s newcomer to the neighbourhood proffers home-baked biscuits to everyone as a Trojan horse for a different agenda entirely.
Josh Lawson starred in Working Dog’s regrettably slick romcom Any Questions for Ben? and also appeared in Anchorman 2. The 33-year-old Queenslander has written sketches for various local TV shows, and his debut feature deftly weaves together a host of surreal scenarios into a consistently funny and surprising package, as performed by a top-notch cast that includes stage luminaries Kate Mulvany and Damon Herriman. Sex in Australian films often induces an involuntary spasm of discomfort – could we at last be developing a genuine taste for it?