Middle-aged dating had a desperate hue even before the digital era, and it takes on tragicomic colours in Rachel Matthews’ Never Look Desperate, a tale of two lonely hearts trying to find connection after the isolating years of COVID lockdown in Melbourne. Bernard is still in mourning, having lost his wife and father during the pandemic, a loss as keenly felt by his mother Goldie, who frets about her increasingly withdrawn son. Minh changes hairstyles every time she embarks on a short-term relationship, and she’s been through a few. Bernard and Minh strike up a tentative rapport. Yet navigating profound grief, not to mention the shallows and sleaze and bewildering etiquette of dating apps, isn’t easy, and there’s a certain nostalgia for the simplicity of lockdown. Still, getting back in the saddle must be done, even if the very idea of a “new normal” feels like a comic absurdity.
Never Look Desperate
Rachel Matthews, Transit Lounge, $32.99
Cameron Woodhead and Fiona Capp – The Age/Sydney Morning Herald/Brisbane Times