Grace, who waits alone,
minimalism, and sugar.

by Anthony Frajman

Grace, Who Waits Alone (dir. Georgia Temple, 2016, 77 mins, Australia)

The shadow of minimalist filmmaker Chantal Akerman echoes heavily in Grace, Who Waits Alone, the feature directing debut of Georgia Temple 23 at the time of making the film.

We’re introduced to sole character Grace as she lies on her bed, waiting in her apartment. She rarely leaves the house, and has no conversations with other people. She is employed at a supermarket, where time drifts by from day to night, almost by accident.

Brisbane born Temple presents her creation – a breathless character who for large swathes of the piece lies on her bed, in anticipation. The Queensland native acts in the film, as her Belgian progenitor did in her own work many times.  

Her activities are mostly confined to waiting, working, solo acts of housekeeping, and patching up a mysterious wound that keeps re-opening in her stomach.

Grace is waiting for an unseen lover she keeps telling us about, describing. The film has no linear dialogue. Minimally, like the spoonfuls of sugar Akerman eats out of a paper bag in her seminal B&W Je Tu Il Elle (1974), this work by Griffith Film School Alumni Temple seems gently awash with small touches.

certainly mirrors the tempo of Je Tu Il Elle – the La Captive (2000) helmer’s work set in one apartment for much of its implosive 1½ hour runtime. The intimacy of Grace putting eyeliner, make-up on, juxtaposed against endless wides of her faced away. The full nakedness of the protagonist’s face largely not being exposed in a close up until two thirds of the way through the film. The voiceover. The fact that the main protagonist‘s face is mainly withheld. The use of that device as a dramatic development – instead of a plot development or a conventional scene. The fact there is no plot. The jaggedness. Our hero eating cake – rather than sugar.


A line could be drawn through Grace and the varying filmography of Akerman – which often focused on isolated characters in claustrophobic settings or situations – frequently set in one room. From her 1972 short film La Chambre, which drew on structuralist works by avant-gardists Yvonne Rainer, Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol. A work which played with time and space, as well as repetition – a continual movement around an apartment, where Akerman, also acting in the film, lay in bed looking to camera.


Or the landmark Je Tu Il Elle, her monochrome piece following the travails of an isolated girl exiting her apartment. 1975 essential Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles was confined to the setting of a single, small apartment. Toute une nuit (1982) explored the loneliness of a group of disparate lovers over one Brussels night. To Nuit et jour (1991), Akerman’s Parisian voice-over romance following two lovers attached to themselves; who don’t have any outside relationships; nor leave their apartment – except for work.


Many of these works had voiceover, minimal dialogue, little plot – hallmarks of this ‘slow cinema’ Akerman reworked – which could be traced all the way to the films of Robert Bresson, Carl Theodor Dreyer. Parallels of this glacial, wordless, visual style could even be found in a film by, say, Jacques Tati. Up until Jeanne Dielman, Akerman often pulled acting and directing duties.



Like with Je Tu Il Elle and its staunch stillness, sound design is crucial. A simple supermarket trolley heard becomes deafening, quaking – the expectancy of a potential linear action or plot development – a word spoken – that never comes. The tropes the audience is used to. The fact the trolley is heard and not seen propels tension even further. The anticipation plays on what might be, not what is.


This documentation of the smallest details runs throughout the film. Grace applies eyeliner to her face. Grace finds a leakage of liquid under her sheets. Pillows rustle. The summer breeze bellows. After 20 minutes of silence, quiet sequences of no narrative or physical movement – a camera shutter goes off on Grace’s laptop. Like a gun. These ruptures are the most volcanic moments of the film. The instances are like piercing a balloon of pent up tension. The release is ample.


In part, we’re expecting something to happen. Someone to walk in. A conversation. A payoff. But it doesn’t. It’s the subversion of this trope the film is rooted in. Every mundane action or reaction feels like a volcano. And this only heightens the build.



Adding to the isolation and claustrophobia of her titular character, Grace interacts with and sees no other major characters on screen. An extra in the film strolling in is a genuine surprise. The film could almost be a genre exercise, for all the tension it saves up. Grace’s bleeding only adds to this. But this isn’t a genre film.


Rhythm is another prominent element to the film’s jaggedness. Long wides and extensive takes are contrasted against a quick close-up. An element that emphasizes rhythm in Temple’s film – repetition. Grace holds the same routine. Shots run multiple minutes. She repeatedly patches up and re-patches a wound in her stomach. Again and again. She talks of a metaphorical wound left by an unknown lover. The actual wound keeps bleeding. She keeps cleaning it up. She uses the public toilet. It’s the same schedule. And the mundanity of her endless routine only adds to the entrapment of Grace’s life, and the film; in the mould of, say, Resnais’s L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961) extending time by repeating the same shots.


Why is Grace in this lull? What is Grace’s wound from? Did she cut herself? Perhaps, a reminder that the character is mortal, human – outside of her existence.


What’s the answer?


Grace waits alone.




Grace, Who Waits Alone screened in Melbourne on Wednesday, November 14, 2018.

See here for details

Anthony Frajman is a film critic, reviewer, cinephile and filmmaker based in Melbourne, Australia.

Published November 7, 2018. © Anthony Frajman, November 2018