Film review: 'When Love Comes'

Colorful performances and energetic direction can't quite make up for some truly banal, soapy scripting in "When Love Comes", a quirky, equal-opportunity love story.

Part of the Outfest '99 lineup, the New Zealand import isn't likely to woo many viewers beyond the festival circuit.

Rena Owen, who was so memorable as an abused wife In Lee Tamahori's "Once Were Warriors", does some fine character work here as Katie Keen, a down-at-the-heels pop diva whose Top 40 days are well behind her.

Reduced to performing her old hits at noisy bars -- her biggest claim to fame was a No. 1 song in America during the late '70s -- the New Zealand native attempts to thwart a threatening nervous breakdown by coming home to revisit her roots and write a one-woman show.

There to lend a ready shoulder to cry on is her longtime pal Stephen Simon Prast), who's having boyfriend trouble with Mark (Dean O'Gorman), a much younger, budding songwriter who spends most of his life in a drug-and-alcohol-tinged haze.

Having problems with commitment, Mark becomes even more confused when he meets up with Fig (Nancy Brunning) and Sally (Sophia Hawthorne), a pair of aspiring rockers. While drummer Fig is romantically involved with guitarist Sally, she also has a thing for Mark and his edgy lyrics.

To add to all the emotional complications, Katie's nice-guy American boyfriend/manager Eddie Simon Westaway) shows up unannounced and joins in all the dysfunctional festivities. He declares his love for her; she, of course, isn't sure what she wants.

Neither is filmmaker Garth Maxwell. While his direction has a nice visual zip, the script, which he wrote along with Rex Pilgrim and Peter Wells, is awash in self-indulgent characters who spend most of the time taking each other's emotional temperatures while still trying to be interesting and sympathetic. Their group analysis sessions may be therapeutic, but they don't do much for the hapless viewer.

Despite all the "woe is me" dialogue, the cast, following Owen's very capable example, nevertheless manages to create an appealing, sexually diverse landscape that has been vibrantly captured on film by cinematographer Darryl Ward, who makes his feature debut here after a successful career in music videos and commercials.


Jour De Fete Films

MF Films in association with

the New Zealand Film Commission

Director: Garth Maxwell

Screenwriters: Garth Maxwell, Rex Pilgrim, Peter Wells

Director of photography: Darryl Ward

Production designer: Grace Mok

Editor: Cushla Dillon

Costume designer: Kirsty Cameron

Music: Chris Anderton



Katie: Rena Owen

Mark: Dean O'Gorman

Stephen: Simon Prast

Fig: Nancy Brunning

Sally: Sophia Hawthorne

Eddie: Simon Westaway

Running time -- 94 minutes

No MPAA rating

See also

Credited With | External Sites