It’s surprising that Working Dog’s Rob Sitch would write a film about the idea a quarter life crisis as he was on top of the world when he was the age of Ben, the 27-year-old protagonist from Any Questions For Ben?
“I dropped out of medicine to do comedy, so I became more immature,” he reminices, before suggesting that the concept of the mid-youth crisis is only new. “We thought that there was no better time [than now] to be in your mid-20s, at least on the surface; the choices now are manifestly different from what they were back then. You’re almost expected to travel, most people work overseas now. The other thing was that we were dealing with lots of young comics making a show called Thank God You’re Here. We were getting the view of that lifestyle from the inside. Josh (Lawson - Ben) was living in LA and then he’d have a month in Australia. He didn’t actually live anywhere, he didn’t seem to have an address, yet he had this high-paced fun lifestyle. Then someone mentioned ‘quarter life crisis’ and I thought, ‘why does that term exist?’.”
Any Questions For Ben? isn’t only about Ben getting down in the dumps, as there’s a love interest, but director Sitch doesn’t want to call it a romantic comedy. “Some people have downgraded ‘romance’ to what we call ‘relationships’ now, like they’re negotiated now,” Sitch ponders. “Falling in love is way too powerful for that; that’s a big force of nature and people ruin their lives in that process! We didn’t make it a romantic comedy because we sort of introduced Alex (Rachael Taylor) and kept her away from most of the film while the mischief went along. We always say that we get haunted by the past, but I think in some ways we get haunted by the future. You get worried about the future. You can do everything and then you wonder if you’ve done anything.”
In addition to the actors, the city of Melbourne also plays a major part in the film, as events like the Melbourne Cup and Australian Open are major settings throughout. “Melbourne’s become a city of events, and it’s in sharp contrast to 20 years ago,” says Sitch. “There’s a policy of the government to have people move back into the city; there’s lots of caretaker cottages on top of buildings, there’s lots of old apartment buildings and they all wanted to build new ones. Then they liberalised all the drinking and cafe laws. Maybe they thought that retirees were going to drift into the city, and what they got was just a mass movement of young people, which just made the city very, very exciting.”
While not admitting no direct message, Sitch believes there is something that quarter life crisis victims can take away from his movie. “That they’ve probably got a very good life,” he offers. “That life’s fun. Enjoy it. If you wanna make your work meaningful than maybe changing jobs all the time doesn’t help. It depends on where you’re at. Life can be absolutely brilliant and perfect, but you probably do have to think about it.”