R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Cate Shortland
with Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran, Erik Thomson, Nathaniel Dean, Olivia Pigeot, Hollie Andrew, Paul Gleeson, Leah Purcell, Toby Schmitz, Blake Pittman, Anne-Louise Lambert
release Australia 16.Sep.04,
UK 4.Mar.05, US 14.Apr.06
04/Australia Showtime 1h46

What am I doing here: Worthington and Cornish

worthington curran dean
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Somersault This film is notable for winning all 13 of the Australian Film Awards in 2004, something that reflects its bracing honesty in portraying a contemporary generation struggling to make sense of their roles in society. It's a strong film that really gets under the skin.

Heidi (Cornish) is a 16-year-old who runs away from home when she's caught kissing the guy who's dating her mother (Pigeot). She ends up in a snowy ski-resort town, where she meets a sexy womaniser named Joe (Worthington), finds a hotel owner (Curran) willing to give her a place to stay, and gets a job in a convenience shop. While Joe just wants sex and Heidi just wants a place to belong, they spark something together that will change them both completely.

This is a film about self-discovery--two people who have no idea who they are open a can of worms when they allow themselves to feel something for each other. And it's not what either of them expects. Cornish and especially Worthington are excellent in these roles--raw and transparent, shining in the film's many dialog-free scenes and providing the film with a gentle human rhythm. And the marvellous Curran beautifully anchors the strong supporting cast.

Shortland's script and direction are artful and dark, drenched in colour and seductive style. She intriguingly avoids showing any physical intimacy between Joe and Heidi--or any sex that actually means anything, for that matter. This leaves us with a lot of frustrating questions, which are echoed in the characters themselves. And it also means the film is much more provocative than similar romantic dramas, since it forces us to think about the situations and issues in a much more personal way.

There's a rather overwhelming sense that Shortland is talking about how hard life is and how horrible people are--everyone in this film does something seriously terrible to someone else. The ability to use, abuse and ruin each other is pretty scary. But there are also moments of real hope, people who offer help and show real compassion in the most difficult situations. It's not an earth-shattering film by any means, but it's thoughtfully and beautifully made.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, nudity 26.Jan.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall