Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Somersault came pretty much at the most recent nadir of the Australian film industry. That year, the percentage of box office commanded by local product in the Australian industry was pretty much at its lowest ever, if my memory serves me correctly. There were very, very few films of any interest released that year, meaning that Somersault also swept the board at the Australian Film Institute Awards (AFIs), winning thirteen statues in every single category from fifteen nominations, beating the previous record held by the eleven wins for The Piano a decade or so earlier. Is it a better film than The Piano? Hell no! Is it a bad film? No, it is not.

I'm glad I rewatched it. I've been meaning to for years, because my initial impression was so tempered by the press surrounding it and the awards it was winning, which would suggest that it is the best Australian film of all time, something it clearly isn't. It was the best film of that year, however, but still. And it did herald the arrival on the scene of current bright young things Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington, so that's something.

Cate Shortland wrote and directed this coming of age film set around Jindabyne, in one of the very few areas in Australia where you can consistently play in the snow. During winter at least. It really is a desert continent. Heidi (Cornish) is sixteen and caught up in desire for her mother's boyfriend (Damien de Montemas), causing her swift evacuation from her home in Canberra, taking herself to the lake town of Jindabyne. She finds a job, is helped out by motel proprietor Irene (Lynette Curran) and begins to explore her sexuality in self-destructive ways, though she always comes back to Joe (Worthington), with whom she begins a relationship of sorts. Joe has his own issues to deal with, including a brief homo one with older Richard (Erik Thomson), but the two are inexplicably drawn to the damaged nature of the other. Eventually, Heidi's ways get to Irene and she tries to kick her out, but Heidi breaks down and is instead rescued by her mother.

I've stated before that I'm not a huge Abbie Cornish fan, with the exception of Candy where I did quite love her by the end of it, and Somersault is no exception. Worthington is capable in his role, but there are no fireworks. He's actually better than I remembered him (probably my memory was affected by the subsequent dire Macbeth, which was truly terrible in so many ways), quite enjoyable really. Curran is great, playing that older, wiser Australian woman nailed by Noni Hazlehurst but also pulled off here, and I quite like Thomson in most anything he does - he seemed to channel a lot of the qualities brought to the older, gentler gay man by Peter Phelps in Lantana: his affectations are very similar.

Two points the film really, really has going for it. Firstly, the cinematography is spectacular, truly luscious. Robert Humphreys won everything going, with good reason, for his stunning work in the snow, playing with white and colour, making the landscape and then the details inside a true character in the story. Secondly, the score by Decoder Ring is phenomenal. I forgot how much I loved it and had it on repeat back when the film was out, but I'm reloving it now. Seriously, check it out. And then go and buy the soundtrack. Extraordinary.

All in all, I remembered the film as maybe 2.5 stars, but I'm giving it 3.5 stars. It's a solid effort, a vignette and a bit messy, but there are enough elements to make it worthwhile.

No comments:

Post a Comment