Kelly & Cal is the story of two people who connect over lost identities. Kelly (Juliette Lewis) is a new mother to a six-week old baby and everything she does is now caught up in her new role as ‘mother’ and her carefree past as a Riot Grrrl musician is long over. She does not belong with the town’s new mothers group – a group that requires a membership fee and waiting list – and she feels undesired and unwanted by her husband (Josh Hopkins), who ignores her advances by watching Robot Wars, and is constantly under scrutiny by her mother-in-law Bev (a nice turn by Cybill Sheperd) and sister-in-law Janice (Lucy Owen).

Cal (Jonny Weston) was an aspiring artist who has been confined to a wheelchair since an accident damaged his spinal column, but remains just like any other 18-year-old male with an appetite for girls and having a good time. Dumped by both his girlfriend and best friend since his accident, and living in his parent’s garage – they did not want to lower the property value on their palatial home – he is free to indulge in his hobbies. The pair first meet when Cal peers over Kelly’s fence as she is sneaking a crafty cigarette. He compliments her breasts – which gets the relationship off to fractious start – but they begin spending time together, sharing life stories and finding a common ground in each other’s isolation. Their identities as ‘mother’ and ‘disabled person’ are irrelevant: they just see the other person for who they are and have a good time in each other’s company.

Although the subject matter could have been tricky and condescending, screenwriter Amy Lowe and director Jen McGowan (both making their debuts), tell the story with a great amount of sensitivity and thoughtfulness. Lewis is wonderful – warm and compassionate – in a role that is a far cry from Kalifornia, Natural Born Killers and Starksy & Hutch, and completely believable as the new mother who has suppressed her naughty side due to her new role in life. She and Weston have great chemistry and humour between them, culminating in a great scene when Kelly decides to dye her hair turquoise as a reaction to her in-laws’ “fifties oppression”. This leads to an unofficial intervention by her in-laws and Janice’s not so subtle thrusting of a psychiatrist’s card into Kelly’s hands. Likewise the prom scene – with appropriately clichéd music – is bound to raise a laugh.

Conversely, there are moments when the plot seems to become a little too ridiculous and Kelly makes some questionable decisions – almost as if her actions were a fantasy dreamt up by Cal’s imagination – before the reality of maturity hits her hard and makes her assess who she really wants to be.