A timid young man who suffers from chronic social anxiety has an unlikely encounter at a party that inspires a night of drinking, joy, and romance in Pat Mitchell’s Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes.
In 1995 Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise became one of the first and best examples of the “hangout film” genre, while also popularising romantic road trip movies. These films typically follow two or more characters as they spend a short time together, talking and exploring their relationships. The film’s focus on character development and dialogue over plot was praised by critics and filmmakers alike, inspiring several imitators.
Almost 30 years after Before Sunrise its influence remains present with Pat Mitchell’s Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes – a 45 min short film about young love, social anxiety, and the awkwardness of adolescence. The film follows Henry, a shy and anxious teenager, who attends a party where he sees his former crush, Natalie. After much convincing from his friends, Henry works up the courage to talk to Natalie, and for the first time, the two of them connect.
Mitchell’s direction during the opening scenes is fast and vivid, managing to capture the energy and excitement of a teenage party. The characters are all drunk and having fun, but there is also an underlying sense of anxiety and awkwardness. This is especially true for Henry, who is struggling with social anxiety.
The film’s main highlight is the relationship between Henry and Natalie played by Calvin Waldau and Skye Marie Sena, both very much our Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Their interactions are sweet and charming as they help each other to overcome their anxiety. One of the other more memorable moments is a dance sequence from one of the supporting characters Rebecca (Valeria Di Babbo) and this becomes the film’s second highlight.
Mitchell’s’ script does a good job of capturing the awkwardness of adolescence with every character struggling with their own insecurities; these youngsters often make mistakes which makes them even more relatable and sympathetic. One of the drawbacks is the runtime, which at 45 minutes is a little long for what we have here, but Mitchell is a bit of a one-man band and does everything himself. As the cinematographer, he uses several techniques to keep the audience interested, while his editing is fast-paced and manages to keep our attention. It’s an impressive directorial performance.
Apples, Oranges, Lemons & Limes is a sweetly enjoyable experience with strong performances from its leads and a simple-but-effective story that tugs a little at your heartstrings. As the two young people meet, overcome their fears, and inevitably find love, thanks to Mitchell’s direction their journey feels believable and authentic. Overall, a film that promotes acceptance and understanding, and shows how two people from different backgrounds can overcome their social anxieties to form a strong relationship is something we could probably all benefit from watching right now.