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|Index||65 reviews in total|
Although slow to start I found I became increasingly involved in the story (young girl finding out what's appropriate in life and love) as the characters lives unfolded. By the end I was totally hooked. There might have been an attempt to show too many facets of the Australian character in this movie, but, in the end I didn't mind because the characterizations were so good. Rare to find in any movie. Was also nice to enjoy some good acting from unknown faces and excellent cinematography - the film had a great look - pale blue/white and red, and good editing. Don't be put off by the negative comments in other reviews, I know I shouldn't say this, but I think they've missed the point :)
I saw a screening of this in New York City in late March, and I loved
it. I thought about this movie for many days afterward, and it is one
of the best films I've seen all year. It is scheduled for an October
This was a beautiful, poetic film- one that touched me both on an artistic level and a deeply personal level. Although I am forty-five now, the movie took me on a vivid journey back to my own adolescence, and the truth that Ms. Shortland captured about "Heidi," and the relationship between "Heidi" and "Joe" was breathtakingly realistic.
Somewhere during my viewing, I realized I was watching one those rare works of art which so startlingly and accurately paint a piece of the human experience that is both reflective of its time and place and destined to transcend them. "Heidi's" red gloves become the self-protective coat of armor to an Aussie teen-aged a girl of the twenty-first century the way "Holden's" red hunting cap served the same purpose to the confused, distraught adolescent of 1940's New York City.
The acting is superb, and there is not a false note anywhere to be found in any of the elements of this film.
I saw this film this weekend at a film festival in Austin, Texas,
without having heard anything about it ahead of time, and without
reading any reviews. I suspect that going in to the theater without any
expectations made it more enjoyable to watch.
The cinematography was excellent, and the acting was quite strong. The script was a bit weak, but did not get in the way of the film being engaging and interesting. The story is a bit ethereal at times, by design I think, and flows gradually as the scenes change.
I'd recommend it, especially for anyone who is comfortable with unconventional scripts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Somersault" is a vivid, interesting coming-of-age tale about a young
girl who runs away from home, and quickly has encounters and
experiences that force her to grow up fast.
Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is a lively teenage girl living at home with her single mother (Olivia Pigeot). When she's caught kissing her mum's creepy tattooed boyfriend, she does a runner, ending up in a lowly ski resort. She charms her way into a job and a place to stay, but soon her abundant sexuality and immaturity mean she eventually becomes unstuck...
This is a bleaker depiction of Australia than is seen in most popular soap operas. Shot in shades of grey and blue, it is shown to be a cold, barren wasteland inhabited by disconnected, lonely human beings. Director Cate Shortland shows this off to good effect, but could have done without the arty shots of falling leaves, and slow-motion captures of passing countryside and kept the story told in a more straightforward way.
The coming-of-age plot is a standard hook, naive teenage girl uses newfound sexuality to achieve intimacy, people exploit her, she defeats this and becomes hardened and wiser as a result. "Somersault" does not quite follow this path, and while there is a suggestion that Heidi has become wiser by the end, it is clear she still has a lot of growing up to do. Throughout, the girl seems dazed and disconnected by the real world around her, and in this the parallel between her and an autistic boy she encounters is not exploited nearly enough.
As Heidi, Abbie Cornish gives a performance that is at once sultry and naive. With blonde hair, fresh face and husky voice, Abbie captures the girl's sensuality and insecurity very well. The only flaw is the primordial scream she lets out on losing her job at a serving station. That is the only false note in her entire performance. Sam Worthington plays Joe, the only character in the film who truly understands her, while dealing with demons and anxieties all his own. Sam delivers a subtle, noteworthy performance.
Not perfect and a tad too arty in places, "Somersault" should nevertheless be the basis for more Australian pictures.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The girl who wanted touch, affection, and love. Heidi, a teenage girl
living with her mother, touches her mother's boyfriend's tattoo and
finds herself sharing a moment of sexual intimacy. Why would she leave
the door open in what seems a small apartment leads me to believe she
wanted to get caught at a subconscious level, because of a need she has
to be noticed. This is a girl with major issues, stemming perhaps from
abandonment -- her biological father is never mentioned nor seen -- and
who has a magnetism of presence and a preternatural sensuality that she
uses without knowing the repercussions.
This is the premise of Cate Shortland's bleak, but unforgettable coming-of-age tale of of a sixteen year old girl who decides to take matters into her own hands and become Alice, falling through the rabbit-hole, and taking the steps to her own awakening. It's not a new idea (then again, what is?) -- the theme of an underage girl leaving home and wandering alien streets, often at the expense of meeting dangers that lie in wait have been done to death, even in a gender-bending movie like BREAKFAST ON PLUTO.
However, this is an at-a-glance observation. There's much more going on in Shortland's movie. It could be seen as an allegory on the search for love in a world of illusion: Heidi seeks men because deep inside, she wants to connect, to belong, to love and be loved. She missteps the second time around with a guy she meets at a club and who leaves her the next morning for his girlfriend. A phone call from what seems to have been a trick also proves fruitless. Upon looking for a job to support herself she makes the mistake of flirting with a store owner and then an older man sitting outside in a vehicle in a parking lot.
And then she meets Joe (Sam Worthington, in a role reminiscent of Heath Ledger in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN due to his character's stoic nature and resistance to communication). Joe is a young farmer who has, we learn later on, never been with a woman, much less expressed affection towards them. He's an alcoholic, and has what seems to be his own sexual turmoil. Heidi's relation with Joe is nearly wordless and relies on touch, on gestures, on moments of restrained intimacy that differentiates it from her previous sexual encounters. However, she wants more: she brings the issue of expressing affection towards Joe who warns her with two words, "baby steps." However, the heart wants what it wants, and hers craves love, and thus ostracizes Joe.
So what happens when what seems to be a sure chance at love fails or looks like it's going due south? Heidi unravels like a spool of string let loose.
First she's invited to a co-worker's house where she meets the man with whom she flirted with in order to get a job. This time, he's not as nice but chilling: he drives her home, and details more cerebral than seen indicate he's raped Heidi while warning her never to come close to his daughter again. It's a masterful scene of restrained horror, in which the camera focuses on Lake Jindabyne, the night sky, and Abbie Cornish's chiaroscuro face as tears stream down her face and the man teases a lock of her hair.
Later, she spins completely out of control and gets herself in a horrible predicament, but this is precisely what has Heidi make a turnaround. It's, again, what seems to me to be an allegory of growing up from a child to an adult in a world that is full of hues of blues and magentas and holds little reality but enormous danger. Heidi is a precocious young woman, drifting from failed encounter to failed encounter until she realizes that it doesn't matter -- being loved -- and makes an important gesture of rejection, a reversal at that, to Joe's extended hand. She's grown up, and faces a future.
Cate Shortland's movie is a little uneven. It looks at time that shots are kept in order to maintain a poetic nature that somehow gets lost in translation -- it's as if the movie were overdirected. Abbie Cornish, however, rescues the movie and is a revelation as an actress, allowing her own body language and sad, questioning eyes to do the talking in a part that is complex because it requires that the actor playing it shed all notions of glamour while exuding it -- the kind that does exist in rough trade. She pulls off playing a girl playing a woman with such ease that I almost forgot it was actual acting. Ergo, the movie belongs to her, and points to a great career ahead.
A beautifully filmed story, the two film comparisons that come to mind are The Virgin Suicides and Morvern Callar. All of these films feature young girls, coping with circumstances that throw them into a spiral - an internal spiral - filmed with grace, attention to detail and a good ear for the soundtrack. There are difficult moments here, where I found myself saying 'Don't do it, don't do it', but she does because inexperience and lack of confidence make for poor choices. As soon as you can place yourself in her shoes, you will find this film moving, and very clearly (and poetically) observed. I recommend this film very highly, both for its clean and original voice - and very Australian voice - and the sympathy we feel for its very real lead characters.
I must confess some bias, being a massive fan of the Snowy area :) This
film I can see not appealing to those who have never been to the
Cooma/Jindabyne area of NSW. They will have no point of reference. For
those who have however, this film is simply brilliant. I have stayed at
the motel Heidi stayed at. I have visited friends with houses like
Joes. The mood/feeling of Heidi around the edges of Lake Jindabyne are
uncanny. There is a feeling down there I have not had anywhere else in
Australia. A barren, cold feeling that is at once breathtaking and
Objectively, one could indeed see this movie being light on concerning the plot. In my mind and experiences though, I have never been so engrossed. Heidi and Joes relationship is so tantalising. So possible. It might seem to some as not realistic, but it really is. This is how many, many Australians express themselves ( on a good day! ) It is pure, and wonderful, and simply amazing and I don't care that this may have been the only film close to warranting attention in 2004. It is regardless completely brilliant, and I for one will be holding it close to my heart for a long long time to come.
Australian cinema very rarely gets this close to actual emotion, and this film hits it again and again. Some of it may be contrived or stereotypical, but overall it really is a gem hidden amongst 21st century Australian cinema pap. Enjoy it please :)
Beyond the aesthetically beautiful nature of this movie lies a story that is compelling in its realistic portrayal of young love and loneliness. The story moves along slowly, but I felt that this only added to the credibility of the plot, as most life situations aren't jam-packed with intense drama. The characters are flawed and complex - the main character Heidi is at once naive and youthful, and grown-up and savvy. The story details are slowly inserted, sometimes just through imagery - leaving the viewer to assume much of the back story - the movie does not feel contrived because you aren't being told every small detail and how the director wants you to judge each character. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone that enjoys artistic camera angles, realistic characters and situations, and doesn't mind slowing down to enjoy a good story.
SOMERSAULT is a well handled treatment of a young 16 year old girl's journey through the discovery of her own sexuality and how to separate love from sex through creative encounters and experimentation. It is a very even handed portrayal staying clear of any moral or cultural judgments, with delicate if not provocative undertones and undergarments. Heidi who left under a misunderstanding when she quite innocently had an affair with her mother's live in boyfriend, heads to the symbolic wilds of New South Wales where she meets several of the movies characters all involved in their own emotional development or lack there of and are destined to repeat the nightly beer bashes and multiple empty (although enjoyable) sexual encounters where this critic felt an immediate connection with their strife. Heidi's life is rapidly becoming a slow alcohol induced, sexually propelled train wreck when finally the retarded aborigine boy sagely suggests that she simply should call her mom, who comes and picks her up and all is forgiven. The character of the gay farmer served no purpose to propel the story line and in my opinion was a cheap ploy to get most movie critics who are wired that way to come see the movie. Heidi's smirk reflected in the window of her mother's car at the end of the move serves as a perfect juxtaposition to her curious look at the opening scene while removing her surrogate stepfather's pants. A masterfully balanced film that I give a five star stretchability factor to. Don't walk but run to see this movie!!
Like last year's Bright Star, Somersault sees the luminous Abbie
Cornish steal every scene in a neatly framed, well-meaning, but vapid
love story. This Heidi is no Fanny though; she's shy and desperate to
feel wanted, and emotional security above romance is the order of the
day. She obviously sees something similarly fragile in Sam
Worthington's Joe. It's just a pity that Worthington the actor hasn't
the subtlety to convince us of this hidden sensitivity; his shifts in
mood come across as minor Hulk moments. He even has a Lou Ferrigno
The plotting itself is fine, but the dialogue is often flat and feels very 'written': lots of unlikely, monosyllabic, stabbing exchanges, which tend to undermine the chilly rawness of the film's photography and themes.
There's a bleak spine of truth running through Cate Shortland's debut feature, and many well-observed scenes. But ultimately it comes off as a kind of STI-free rendition of Lilya-4-Ever.
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