There’s been a murder! But who’s the culprit?
From the get-go of Jonathan Wysocki’s Dramarama, we have reason to suspect Gene (Nick Pugliese). Perhaps not of murder, but of something. It’s summer 1994, and Rose (Anna Grace Barlow) is throwing her final murder mystery party before leaving for college. Each member of her conservative, religious friend group turns up one by one sporting costumes of Victorian-era literary characters: Ally (Danielle Kay), Claire (Megan Suri) and Oscar (Nico Greetham). Gene sticks out right away, and it is obvious that he is the black sheep of the group; he looks more 1980s than 1880s, and he isn’t dressed as his assigned character. This visual representation of his otherness represents Gene’s wish to come out as gay to his friends before they leave for college. However, he fears the changes that such an announcement may bring.
The film begins as an over the top ode to Jonathan Lynn’s Clue in a ridiculously fun introduction to each character before screeching to a halt. Pizza! A pizza delivery is a funny release from the hyperactive tone that the film could not possibly keep up with for its full runtime, bringing us back down to reality. Unlike Clue, Dramarama is set within the confines of real life. Clue’s situation deals with life and death, whereas Rose’s murder mystery party is exactly that. A party. A fictitious night of fun. And when the pizza boy JD (Zak Henri), a rebellious friend of Gene’s, jokingly jabs at the group’s childlike night of play-acting, the group begin to question their readiness for the “real world.”
The scene itself feels a little clunky due to no real understanding on the audience’s part as to who JD is in relation to the friend group. However, it is exactly this event that plants the seeds for what is still to come. The very drama that this group of friends bond over is merely an escape for each character from the genuine issues that sit just below the surface.
At first, the group’s problems can come across as melodramatic, but as the story progresses and the gang’s efforts to break free from the shackles of their religion grow stronger, the characters become more engaging and feel more like a genuinely tight-nit group of friends the longer the film goes on. This is further helped through the fantastic chemistry between the group as well as Wysocki’s directing and writing of each character. He excellently balances the focus between the five friends whilst also building a believable and entertaining history within the friend group.
It becomes clear that Gene’s coming out to his friends is not what this film is about. It is about each of their stories. Dramarama is not just a coming of age tale but also a story about coming to terms with oneself. It is also very much a story of friendship and what it can overcome. We have no clue if these friends will ever be as close again, but one thing is for sure, they will always love each other and never forget their times together.
Dramarama is a joy to watch, as is being a part of the friend group. Equally so, it is just as disappointing once the film’s credits roll, wishing to spend more time with the five friends. The film is a fantastic feature debut from director Jonathan Wysocki and a standout from this year’s BFI Flare.
Dir: Jonathan Wysocki
Scr: Jonathan Wysocki
Cast: Nick Pugliese, Anna Grace Barlow, Danielle Kay, Megan Suri, Nico Greetham, Zak Henri
DOP: Todd Bell
Runtime: 91 minutes
Dramarama will screen as part of the 2021 BFI Flare Festival on March 17th 2021