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Janey is on vacation with her brother, Jim, mother, Kate, and father Ed, at their beach house on the Mahurangi Peninsual in New Zealand. Ed and Kate, who are on the verge of divorce, sit around in the back yard all day drinking whiskey and Janey and Jim are left to their own devices. Cady, a local boatee who is having an affair with Kate, catches Janey's pubescent eye. In response to his wife's drinking problem and recurring infidelity, Ed turns to alcohol, ignoring his children almost as much as his wife, which eventually leads to a character's fate. Written by
A family of four vacations at their beach house in 1970's New Zealand. The parents are Kate (played by Sarah Peirse) and Ed (Alistair Browning), while the children are Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, about 13 years old) and Jim (Aaron Murphy, about 8). This sounds rather idyllic, but it is almost immediately obvious that Kate and Ed's marriage is on shaky ground. While the children get along better than most siblings and the parents do seem to care for their children, the adults in the film all drink large quantities of alcohol to numb themselves. The one other significant character is a photographer named Cady (Marton Csokas) who lives on his boat and reminded me a bit of fellow New Zealand actor Russell Crowe. I won't give away much of the plot, because there isn't much there to give away. This is not a criticism -- if anything, it is a compliment to the writers for avoiding unnecessary complications.
The main character is Janey, who is in transition from girl to woman. The young first time actress is extremely good and quite believable with this complex material. The boy who plays her brother is also very natural. The adults didn't impress me as much, but then again they were supposed to appear emotionally shut down, and they succeeded admirably. That much of the film's feeling is conveyed without words is a tribute to both the actors and to the direction (by first time director Christine Jeffs). The cinematography didn't seem to me to draw attention to itself, except one shot looking backwards through a hand pushed lawn mower.
The New Zealand accents were a bit difficult to understand at times. Without subtitles or the ability to back up and listen again, I did miss a few lines. Home video will likely make this aspect easier, but since much of the film is set outdoors, some of the atmosphere would be lost on the small screen.
I am surprised that none of the reviews I have seen compared this film to "The Ice Storm." Both films are set in the 1970's with parents who are emotionally distant and children (child in this case) who are becoming adults. While Ang Lee's film is definitely better in my view, that there is a comparison at all speaks highly for this effort. "Rain" is worth seeing, though probably not going out of your way for.
Seen on 6/3/2002.
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