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DVD Giveaway: Life With Ashley

‘Life With Ashley’ may only be one week in one teenager’s life, but it’s a genre mashing ride where fiction and reality merge. First time feature filmmaker Chris Butler trailed his sister with video camera in hand and the results are surprisingly polished and unsurprisingly revealing. You’ll laugh, Ashley will cry and in the end, you’ll wonder at what our generation is doing with the time we’ve got.

The most shocking moments come from the juxtaposition of Ashley’s junk food habit with her obsessive late night exercising as well as from the relaxed way in which Ashley and her older brother Chris (the filmmaker) talk about sex. It reveals how the creative types of today assume free sex as a natural part of life that will come to them or they will seek it out. But maybe even the pursuit and the risk involved come at a cost?

I recently read a review of ‘Wake in Fright’ saying the actions of a female character going out and seeking no strings attached sex portrayed the sexually free nature of Australian women. That was decades ago. This is today. This film is the intimate portrayal of a family, where the brother and sister love each other deeply. The film works because the loving viewpoint stops it from being overly harsh. It lets Ashley’s multi-dimensional personality shine through which will keep you watching just to find out what she does next. This film accurately portrays the prevailing attitudes towards sex that many of today’s youth have. Before a party, it’s not uncommon that girls spend the whole week or longer planning their outfit and preparing their body, feeling that this is what is required of them to live up to the expectations of their male counterparts. In contrast, boys expect that they will be able to find an easy piece of meat.

It’s not polished in terms of camera technique, but the technique is close and personal. It’s not necessarily gritty, but it is real. It shows Chris and Ashley’s interaction with their grandparents and their mother, revealing how their general openness meant this style of film was a natural choice for them. They swear in front of their grandparents and their ‘Ninny’ merely picks Ashley up on the description of a classmate being a “slut” as overly harsh.

The fights between Ashley and her Mum may hit too close to the bone for some, as they are screaming matches that show how people’s personalities come out in fights. Though the yelling never seems to end, afterwards, it is shown that Ashley knows that it was really because her Mum was upset about other things, a life lesson we all come to learn.

It shows how today’s standards are drastically different from ideas about family shown on TV generally. Children really do speak to their parents in ways that would never have been allowed in the past, but they also speak to the cinema going audience in a self consciously self indulgent manner that is honest and raw. There was no scripting, only planning what would occur each day of the week of filming in terms of ‘going to the shop’, which is unlikely to be too different from their usual weeks.

If you want to add watching ‘Life With Ashley’ to your list of things to do this week e-mail me at with your deets and persuade me to send you a copy. In addition, you’ll automatically gain 10 more underground film buff points.

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