RUBY AND RATA

 (Gaylene Preston, New Zealand, 1990) 110 minutes

RUBY AND RATA

Director: Gaylene Preston
Producers: Robin Laing, Gaylene Preston
Screenplay: Graeme Tetley
Photography: Leon Narbey
Editor: Paul Sutorius
Music: Jonathan Crayford
Yvonne Lawley (Ruby)
Vanessa Rare (Rata)
Lee Mete-Kingi (Willie)
Simon Barnett (Buckle)
Debes Bhattacharyya (Ramesh)

Reviews and notes

At 83 Ruby refuses to be shunted into the Sunset Villas. In hope of some rent-paying, Iive-in home help, she poses as a tenant in her own home, then arranges to let her downstairs apartment to a smart young businesswoman... which is to say that Rata moves in with eight-year-old Wille, hangs up her businessperson disguise and concentrates on her career of welfare fraud and rock 'n' roll stardom. The old girl upstairs will make a great babysitter, she figures.

Ruby and Rata are soon locked into a battle of mutual subterfuge and deception that undergoes some fairly outlandish convolutions. Caught between them are Buckle, Ruby's nephew (also on the make), Ramesh who runs the comer dairy and Willie, who steals Ramesh's chocolate fish and almost steals this film from the grown-ups. There's something almost elegaic about the portrait Ruby provides of a certain class and generation of the ever elegant, snobbish and lonely old woman looking for spiritual heirs. She's met her match in Rata whose flagrant scamming and frequent abandonment of her son to the "old witch" won't win her any good housekeeping citations. But, as their names suggest, Preston's two, 'determined and manipulative women' are sisters at heart. It takes them as long to realise this as it takes for truth to dawn and a perfect match to occur in any romantic comedy.

Preston's usual resourcefulness with preconceptions and stereotypes is very much in evidence, but temporarily deserts her when it comes to dealing with a punkish band called "The Apocalypse". And for a young Maori, Rata is surprisingly bereft of friends and relations. But the best things about RUBY AND RATA are rooted in home truth. The seriousness that lurks within the cheelful comedy of false pretences is surprisingly touching.
- Bill Gosden, 19th Wellington Film Festival, 1990.

Weblink: Review by Robert Biddle

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