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dir Anne Fontaine
scr Christopher Hampton
prd Philippe Carcassonne, Michel Feller, Barbara Gibbs, Andrew Mason
with Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville, Ben Mendelsohn, Jessica Tovey, Sophie Lowe, Gary Sweet, Sarah Henderson, Skye Sutherland, Brody Mathers, Isaac Cocking
release US 6.Sep.13, Aus 14.Nov.13
13/Australia Gaumont 1h52
Hot mamas: Wright and Watts
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Infused with a sense of sun-kissed physicality, this drama has a provocative premise that would be hard to take if it weren't shot so beautifully and played with such offhanded authenticity by the solid cast. And despite the Australian surf-community setting, the film has a refreshingly grown-up European sensibility.
Lil and Roz (Watts and Wright) grew up together on the fantastically idyllic Australian coast and have been through everything together, from the births of their sons to the death of Lil's husband. And their respective sons Ian and Tom (Samuel and Frecheville) are still surfing together in their early 20s. When Roz's husband (Mendelsohn) moves to Sydney to take a job, the mothers and sons are left on their own. And Ian makes a move on Roz, who doesn't put up a fight. In response, Tom starts a romance with Lil.
Director Fontaine lets the camera linger suggestively on these beautiful people, with their well-toned skin catching every glowing ray of sunshine. The characters glance at each other furtively, revealing to us their desires long before they do anything about them. Which adds layers of complexity to the more overt explanations for the way each relationship develops. What's even more interesting is what these socially transgressive romances do to the life-long friendships of both the women and their sons over the years that follow.
Refusing to sensationalise the subject matter, Fontaine focusses on the emotional aspects of the relationships, which is where Watts and Wright particularly excel. Lil and Roz's bond is complex and fascinating, played with delicate nuance and raw grit. As the story is told from their perspective, Samuel and Frecheville have less defined characters, but add details that make Ian and Tom's actions believable. No one is the villain here.
Based on the Doris Lessing novella The Grandmothers, Hampton's script cleverly throws around big issues without being preachy or taking an easy route through the material. From the small-town rumour mill to long-term implications, the film focusses on people who have a stronger connection than anyone suspects. As the film progresses, the plot takes some soapy but honest turns into jealousy and suspicion. But at its core, this is a revelatory exploration of female friendship through thick and thin.
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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