Alice (Alice Garner) and Mia (Frances O'Connor) are university students with a problem: they need a new flatmate. And that's not the only trouble they have, as Mia is intent on changing her course, but has left it to the last possible moment, leaving her to run about like crazy in order to get her form signed in time. Alice, on the other hand, is looking for the perfect partner, a man who is left handed, truthful and loves the same three films as she does; she has her heart set on the pretentious Ari (Matthew Dyktynski), but he still doesn't quite match her specifications.
This low budget effort of comedy drama was written by Yael Bergman, Helen Bandis and the director Emma-Kate Croghan from a story by Stavros Andonis Efthymiou, and all takes place on one day in the lives of students in Melbourne. Showing that student life is not all lying in bed until the Teletubbies come on, this day is more eventful than most, making you wonder what their other days are like in comparison. A collection of young Australian actors fill their roles with ease, bringing just the right amount of youthful vitality to even the most inconsequential parts, and the film is short enough to fly by with a winning breeziness.
The other important character is medical student Michael (Matt Day), who happens to be searching for a room, due to his fellow would-be doctors forever disrupting his concentration. It's clear from early on that this is the man Alice and Mia are looking for, in particular the lovelorn Alice, but they won't know that until the end of the film. Meanwhile Mia has decided to dump her girlfriend Dani (Radha Mitchell), even though Dani has been good enough to pay her library fines, but considering Dani has already hooked up with another partner, it appears that Mia is the one losing out.
If all this sounds a bit serious, then don't worry, there's a nice line in humour to lift the atmosphere. A couple of minor characters are only present for laughs, such as the guy who is worried about his fiancée demanding he be circumcised for their upcoming wedding, or the one who is paranoid about going through doors after setting off the library alarm so many times. When Michael phones up various people who are advertising rooms, he is greeted with a neo-Nazi, a vegan hippy and a bunch of girls who get him to sing a show tune for a cheap joke. One film studies professor announces to his class they will be studying Hitchcock, with hostile reactions from the students who all have their own ideas about who's better.
Love and Other Catastrophes may not be anything new, or have anything original to say about those relationships it depicts, but it's refreshing in its enthusiasm, even if it does turn to film school clichés - do we really need wobbly hand-held camerawork to indicate the characters are having a good time? It's a bit like an episode of The Monkees at points. But the catastrophes of the title are nothing that the students will never get over, just events that loom large in their lives on that particular day, as can be seen when they occasionally offer each other their opinions as if they were delivering a thesis. Bright and lightly perceptive, the film is more fun than many relationship dramas twice its length. Music by Oleh Witer.