I've strongly mixed feelings about this. First, it is a wonderfully tightly woven script - time and again at just the right moments, we have our heartstrings pulled by Jill Ker's memories of moments earlier in the film. The film shows as well as any films I can think of, what a happy marriage looks like - not easy to do.
It also shows brilliantly the warmth between a mother and her young daughter. The chemistry between the actress playing the very young Jill Ker and Juliet Stevenson is really striking. We are moved again and again by the images, the touches between people in the movie.
The actor playing the father - and Juliet Stevenson are both absolutely extraordinary.
My chief problem is that I'm not sure that I so like the college-aged Jil Ker - this may not be the fault of the movie. But if you don't warm to Jil Ker as an 18-23 year old, if you don't wholly take her side in the struggle against being "held back" by "mother-Australia", the latter part of the movie loses you. It seems to me that the movie over-dramatizes the degree to which the mother "fell apart" and has become a monster after the rains come to Coorain.
What widow doesn't more strongly identify with her surviving son(s)? What widow doesn't fear loneliness if their children are to move 8,000 miles away? What mother of a lone 21 year old daughter is pleased to see her having an affair with a foreigner on his occasional visits - a foreigner who is married with two small children? For that matter, what widow yearns to move to the Outback without children or husband? These all seem perfectly natural reactions - yet the screenplay/director do all they can to portray the mother as some monster for having such attitudes/reactions. Since while watching you attribute to the daughter, these over-the-top reactions to her mother - it causes you to not like the daughter terribly much. And that's certainly the opposite reaction to the director's desire.
I also felt that the movie was too sweeping in its summing-up of national characteristics - American, British and Australian. Neither resentment of success nor emotional reserve is unique to Australia! Whether it's a Western movie, or books such as O Pioneers or Giants of the Earth, one senses pretty hefty "emotional wet weather gear" among Americans at least as much as Australians. Nor would I say that Australians were any more rigid than Americans or the English.
I'm not sure why this is - perhaps the degree of obstacles felt - but there is such a huge number of Australian feminist stories - e.g., My Brilliant Career, Road from Coorain, Muriel's Wedding. Others such as Germaine Greer tilt at the same windmills. There is therefore, perhaps to an unavoidable extent, a sameness to such as My Brilliant Career and Road from Coorain. I disagree with the earlier reviewer, who wrote that one would expect a strong conflict with the father to lead to the stance - I would actually expect an identification with the father and conflict/embarrassment/perhaps even shame over the mother's very different life.
Still and all, this movie has many haunting moments; it's often quite powerful, and should have been released to movie theaters.
I'd definitely recommend it.
Oh, to the reviewer who wrote sneeringly that Hollywood would have botched this - I see no reason why. Such Hollywood movies as King of the Hill, Another Woman, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Interiors, Country, I Remember Mama, Picnic, A Beautiful Mind, The Corn is Green, Three Cheers for Miss Bishop, Little Man Tate, Days of Heaven, Inventing the Abbots, all share elements with this powerful movie.
I definitely recommend this - it's awfully good.
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