Simon and Pam previously a golden couple find themselves in smug and comfortable suburbia with two small children a sex life on hold and a marriage in limbo. At a yoga class for young mothers Pam meets the utterly gorgeous cellist, Katrien, who is quickly embraced by a bunch of young couples who call themselves the family group.

Katrien followed her love-rat husband Klaus to New Zealand in the hope that their love would flourish.  Instead, she catches him in bed with a young art student and her marriage falls apart.  Katrien’s sudden availability and vulnerability knocks the disillusioned Simon completely sideways. Hurt, confused and lonely, Katrien is susceptible to Simon’s infatuation and sexual tension ignites.

Their mutual attraction must be secret from the family group as it escalates and proves impossible to resist. They mumble and fumble a number of opportunities until a meticulously planned clandestine rendezvous in Berlin turns into a wild and crazy farce that threatens to rip their lives apart...

3.5
A fine but flawed attempt at male-skewed rom-com.

There’s something very limiting and unimaginative about the way romantic comedy has come to be seen as an essentially female sub-genre. Some of the most memorable rom-coms have been told from the male point of view – think of When Harry Met Sally (although scripted by Norah Ephron, a male-centred story) or Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Manhattan.

The idea that only women are interested in relationships is bogus nonsense – most men are either in relationships or want to be. Add to that the revolutionary social role changes wrought by 30 years of feminism and you have a mine of great potential material for comedy.

It’s good then to see Kiwi writer Tom Scott and director Paul Middleditch jumping straight into that mine shaft – please forgive my Freudian symbolism – and finding rich seams of comedy. Their lively New Zealand film examines the travails and temptations of married life for blokes in the post-feminist era, especially the vexed question of how to deal with sexual frustration once parenting duties take over.

Australia’s Joel Edgerton makes for a very likable casting choice as Simon, a government ministerial aide married to Pam (Danielle Cormack). The pair of them seem close enough but the raising of two young children and the usual over-familiarity of long-term relationships has taken their sex-life off the boil.

Complicating this is Pam’s friendship with professional cellist Katrien (Rhona Mitra from TV series Boston Legal), with whom Simon had earlier become infatuated while watching her playing cello at a symphony concert. In practical terms this is not too much of a temptation – they always seem to meet only in large group gatherings – until Katrien breaks up with her philandering German husband Klaus (Thomas Kretschmann) and starts to come over all emotionally needy.

Scott, a political journalist and cartoonist, has a special gift for witty dialogue and he’s crafted an energetic narrative loaded with rich comic scenarios, including men’s group meetings and ministerial bungling. The piece de resistance is a long and superbly farcical sequence set during a business trip to Berlin.

All this is handled by Middleditch (who previously made the brilliant, Sydney no-budgeter, A Cold Summer) with comic élan. The casting is mostly spot-on, with some inspired in the supporting roles including Mike Minogue as a fireman at the men’s group meetings. A constant stream of inspired waterside locations in and around Wellington adds further pleasure.

For all these strengths it’s disappointing the film’s flaws weren’t straightened out though. The script has the odd contrived moment that is plain silly (surely no wife would fold her husband’s used condom inside one of his handkerchiefs in his drawer when she could flush it down the loo?). Strangest of all is the way that Katrien, after being introduced to viewers as Simon’s ultimate fantasy woman, is introduced into his circle of friends without comment or fanfare. Surely a vital scene has been left on the cutting room floor?

Finally Mitra’s casting as Katrien is a serious error. Her overly-collagened lips are weirdly fake-looking for a woman whose beauty is meant to be so beguiling, while her acting lacks the complexity and subtlety to make this supposedly fascinating woman spring to life.

Also, I wondered, why does a Kiwi woman with a Dutch name speak with an upper-class English accent when she’s lived in Germany, not Britain? (Note too that Edgerton and Les Hill, who plays Simon’s best mate, don’t bother attempting Kiwi accents either). For all that, the film’s many strengths make it an enjoyable experience. It’s just that with a bit more care this could have been a comedy classic.