Total Running Time 138 Minutes
This two films form part of an ongoing series called Seven Years On, which documents the lives of three Australian women - Josie, Kerry and Diana - born into working class families in suburban Adelaide, from adolescence onwards.
In these documentaries, acclaimed filmmaker Gillian Armstrong interviews them at two stages: aged 18 and 26. During these fast and furious years, they discover exactly what life has in store for them - the good, the bad and the unexpected. The films show the women trapped by limited possibilities and limited ambitions into lives whose borders are defined by the arrival of the pay packet or the welfare cheque. Seven Years On certainly proves that life itself makes the best screenplay.
14's Good, 18's Better 1981, 47 Minutes (aged 18) In 14’s Good, 18’s Better, Gillian Armstrong re-introduces audiences to Diana, Josie and Kerry - three 18-year-old women living in suburban Adelaide. The film is a sequel to Smokes and Lollies, which Armstrong made four years earlier when the girls were 14. In this film, their current lives and views are counterpointed by flashbacks to their lives and expectations when they were 14. The footage is intercut, juxtaposing the pimply, rough-edged young teens with their more subdued, assured and scarred 18-year-old selves.
At 14 the great fear was pregnancy. Just after Smokes and Lollies, Josie fulfilled all parental prophecies by becoming pregnant. At 15, she lay alone in the maternity ward, visited only once by her own disappointed father. “I had plenty of flowers, anyway,” she laughs. Josie rang the florists herself and ordered bouquets in the names of people she selected from the phone book. When she describes the weeks following the birth, spent in a furnished room with “no TV; just a clock, and it used to tick, all day long”, the image is as lonely and as lucid as anything Bergman ever devised.
The film has a kind of black, wince-inducing wit as it contrasts the bold, free-thinking 14-year-olds with the constrained and authoritarian 18-year-olds, who are already planning regulations for their own offspring.
Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces 1988, 91 Minutes (aged 26) The third in a series of films, Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces captures with candid honesty the lives of three working-class women as they grow up from the “not so innocent” age of 14 to “it’s happening too fast” at 18, through to “well, we survived” at the ripe old age of 26. Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces accurately highlights the three stages of their lives through their unique relationship with acclaimed director Gillian Armstrong.
As a young filmmaker, Armstrong first focused on their world back in 1976 for Smokes and Lollies. She went back in 1980 to film 14’s Good 18’s Better, before returning again in 1987 for Bingo, Bridesmaids and Braces. The latest film includes special excerpts from the earlier visits, and presents an intimate glimpse of Josie, Kerry and Diana, coming to terms with their hopes, fears, joys and struggles, deep in the heart of the suburbs.
We witness the women confronting the very real issues of teenage pregnancy, and love versus sex, marriage and career. Faced with the choice of swapping their earlier dreams for reality, they rapidly change their opinions on all that life has now delivered them.
© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Director/Writer: Gillian Armstrong
Years: 1981, 1988
Total Running Time: 138 Minutes
Classification: PG. Consumer advice: Adult concepts.