Sydney Film Festival Review: The Breaker Upperers (New Zealand, 2018) is immensely entertaining, genuinely hilarious, and wonderfully heartfelt

Given that we can almost outsource every chore, errand, and activity that come our way, it only makes sense that the unfortunate responsibility that is breaking up with someone be a lucrative business too.  Enter The Breaker Upperers, a duo of frozen-hearted, screwed-over singletons who appear more than happy to break the heart of someone else’s significant other – for the right price of course.

It’s a lucrative, albeit harsh business, and as much as the titular breakers – stone-cold Jen (Jackie van Beek) and the more fuzzy Mel (Madeleine Sami) – are performing the dirtiest of work (and not always in the slickest of manners), they prove extremely hard to dislike, with van Beek and Sami headlining, co-writing and co-directing the film, constantly delivering a relatable likeablilty that keeps the film roaring along with a dark wit.

As much as Jen and Mel focus on everyone else’s relationship, it’s ultimately theirs that is threatened when the supremely air-headed (and impossibly adorable) Jordan (James Rolleston, best known for his leading role in Taika Waititi‘s Boy, in his first starring piece since his horrific car accident in 2016) calls upon their services in his quest to sever his relationship with his intensely passionate girlfriend (Ana Scotney); evidently the breaking heart emojis he’s been sending haven’t tipped her off.

Jordan is immediately taken with Mel (“Is that short for Melon?” he so earnestly asks), who can’t help but succumb to his innocent charm in return, and when the sob-heavy Annie (Victorian comedian Celia Pacquola) rears her unwanted head (the constant sobbing due to her husband hiring Jen and Mel to fake his own disappearance as opposed to manning up and ending their relationship in person) and suggests a friendship with Mel, Jen’s icy exterior is tested for breakage as her inability to function without her bestie becomes apparent.

In a time when female filmmakers are at the lowest end of industry statistics, The Breaker Upperers deserves attention on principle alone with van Beek and Sami proving how gracefully the heavy lifting of constructing a film can be.  Similarly, their ability to flip the “buddy comedy” concept that has so long been a safe staple in cinema on its axis with an air of subtle charm highlights an industry shift without shoving any sort of agenda down our throats.

Though the film may not maintain its energy quite as consistently in its latter half as it does in its former, The Breaker Upperers still proves immensely entertaining, genuinely hilarious, and wonderfully heartfelt without resorting to emotional manipulation.  And if you need any further encouragement to witness this glorious product, there’s an extended fantasy karaoke sequence to Celine Dion’s power ballad “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” and a somewhat-tightly choreographed dance number to K-Ci & Jo-Jo’s “All My Life” that are undoubtedly two of the most of the joyous segments you’re likely to encounter on screen this year.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Breaker Upperers is screening as part of the Sydney Film Festival.  Head HERE for tickets and more details.