The current immersion of the world into a state of stasis has put a hold on creative projects. Everything from Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis film to the latest Marvel flick has had the kibosh put on them while countries everywhere grapple with how best to tackle the unfurling pandemic. The notion of thinking about creative endeavours might be hard to process, especially with much of the world in essential isolation, and rapidly dwindling finances with no sign of support, but trust the ever ingenuitive Imogen McCluskey to come up with something that speaks directly to the times we live in. 

This short ‘series’ Love Bug, screening on the AFTRS Facebook page, tells the budding relationship between B (Justin Amankwah) and G (Maddy McWilliam) as they both live in isolation. I say series with inverted commas because the ‘episodes’ vary in length from seconds, to a minute or two. This is one of the briefest binge watches you’ll have in isolation, with the entirety of Love Bug taking just over thirteen minutes to wrap up. 

But, brevity doesn’t mean a lack of quality, with McCluskey employing a deft use of creative shorthand to immerse us immediately into the world of B and G. As with Suburban Wildlife, Love Bug celebrates the familiar, embracing the relatable reality we find ourselves in. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know the intimate backstories of B and G, given we’re all well aware about the impact this massive STOP button has had on our lives.

For B, this means having his flight to London cancelled. For both, it means that their once close and physical relationship has now turned purely digital. For both, their interactions are constant, taking place over a few days, and presenting a relationship that’s almost always on, operating 24/7. When there’s nothing to distract or occupy your partners time, the focus of their attention suddenly becomes you, you, you all the time. As such, a relationship that would usually take weeks or months to flourish and foster its roots, spreads rapidly, almost as quickly as the virus that keeps us all hostage has spread around the world. 

As days stray into one another, B spouts off random nonsense about the creativity people have with plasticine. It’s mundane, but Love Bug shows how quickly this hyper-focused style relationship can dissolve into tedium. Justin Amankwah and Maddy McWilliam have an engaging chemistry that shows that you don’t need to be in the same room with someone else to act against them, or even to have a genuine relationship. 

As B finds frustration stewing in his mind due to his missed trip, and a growing cough, he sees G’s external apathy and failure to comprehend the gravity of the situation they find themselves in aggravating. This is not to say that G doesn’t recognise the importance of staying isolated, or the difficulties that we are all facing both financially and societally, but rather, an all too common eagerness to try and ignore much of what is going on for the sake of sanity.     

While Love Bug is truly ‘of the moment’, it exists with purpose and reason. Not only does it show the world as it is right now, providing a glimpse into the captive relationships that exist throughout the world, kept in place by a virus and the need to survive, but it also shows a new creative style springing forth. While films and series focused around phone interactions are nothing new, Love Bug, alongside the launch of the new phone focused streaming service, Quibi, shows that there’s a genuine future in this kind of ‘hand-held’ viewing content.  

While this is a trauma that will take years to recover from, one that will likely be explored and examined through the realm of art, it’s creative types like Imogen McCluskey, Justin Amankwah, and Maddy McWilliam, who are harnessing this downtime as an opportune moment for innovation. Where Suburban Wildlife was made for a song and a prayer, Love Bug exists out of the ether of nothing, proving that creative energy will thrive, regardless the landscape. As with her first feature, McCluskey reminds us that she is a creative force to be reckoned with, one that deserves a budget to work with.

It’s worthwhile mentioning the impact that Covid-19 has had on the creative arts around Australia, with many in the arts industry left abandoned by the Australian government. While I personally applaud the immense talents across Australia, and have recognised the creativity that filmmakers like Lucy Coleman and Imogen McCluskey have been able employ in making micro-budget films in Australia, I do so with the recognition that these are artists that are putting themselves into financially taut fields, with all safety nets removed, and a government that cares little for their output and the cost it has on them. 

I wish to say that I’m loathe to turn a review of a nice little gem like Love Bug into a political statement, but to be frankly honest, I’m not. If I may have the soapbox for a moment, it infuriates me that filmmakers across Australia, and their counterparts in theatre, music, and other artistic fields, have been abandoned by the Australian government. If they were struggling before, then they’re positively on the wrong end of the Titanic now. 

I live for filmmakers like Imogen McCluskey. This is my brand and style of entertainment, and selfishly so, I need to see the Australian film industry survive and thrive. I don’t want to be writing about the future that could have been, when I can see a future that we deserve with countless creative types being afforded the avenues to make what they want to make.

If this infuriates you as much as it does me, then I implore you to get in contact with your local MP (see how here) to voice your concern and frustration.

In the meantime, make sure to check out Love Bug on the AFTRS page. It’s well worth fifteen minutes of your day, and will provide a nice slice of entertainment for you in this time of isolation. 

Director: Imogen McCluskey

Cast: Justin Amankwah, Maddy McWilliam

Writer: Imogen McCluskey

‘Love Bug’ by Imogen McCluskey

For new couple B and G, attempting to date while separately self-isolating brings whole new meaning to ‘it's complicated‘.

Posted by Australian Film Television and Radio School on Saturday, 4 April 2020