Sun 30 Jul 2006
Just one of the reasons I love Australia.
One thing I can’t stand as a movie fan is how great films take so long to get overseas. So many foreign films are standouts, besting the general Hollywood fare that is pounded into our psyche by the marketing machine. Another such victim of this syndrome is the 2004 Australian film, “Somersault”. This had a limited American release earlier this year but didn’t come within a few hundred miles of me so I just caught it on DVD.
And I am so glad I did.
Those savvy to my cinema predilections know what kind of film gets my attention. “Somersault” could hardly do more to satisfy my interests. The film centers on a young woman, Heidi, who is emotionally and sexually confused. Having no relationship with her real father, she uses sex like a surgeon’s scalpel, to cut out the bad feelings inside of her, if only for a fleeting moment.
Thrown out of her house for messing around with her mom’s boyfriend, she runs to a wintry mountain town looking to create her own identity and place for herself in the world. Along the way, she continues to discern the difference between sex and intimacy. She begins to learn how to create a friendship with someone without needing to act out. In short, she begins to discover herself.
The visuals of the film are gorgeous and like a moving postcard. Director Cate Shortland has a wonderful eye for creating shots and her affinity for photography and other films is evident throughout. The handheld style of camera-work is nicely used to give the audience the sense that they are right there with Heidi.
Speaking of which, Abbie Cornish’s portrayal of Heidi is fantastic. Heidi is bold but naïve, sure of herself but confused. All the things a person is as a teenager.
Sam Worthington plays the love interest in the little town Heidi escapes to. He is just as screwed up as she is but together they sort of cancel out each other’s peccadilloes.
There is almost a sense of a relationship not unlike that in one of my favorite films, “Leaving Las Vegas” between the drunk and the prostitute. That kind of dichotomy exists between these two and it’s wonderful to see it play out.
All of the supporting roles are excellent, most notably Lynette Curran as the hotel owner who helps Heidi get a place to stay and is like a surrogate mother to her. Hollie Andrew does a nice job of being a co-worker of Heidi’s and perhaps the first real friend Heidi has ever had.
Adding to the great acting and visuals is a fantastic score. All of the music in the film is done by Decoder Ring. I had never heard of them before but have since picked up the soundtrack to “Somersault” and one of their subsequent albums. Good, moody stuff.
So all of the elements are in place for “Somersault”. There’s nothing else to say without giving away the actual plot points and that ruins the fun of being on the journey with Heidi. I’m giving “Somersault” a 5 out of 5. It’s my favorite film that I’ve seen this year and will most definitely factor into this year’s top ten.
If you like independent films about discovering your identity, figuring out your place in the scheme of things, get a copy of this film and try not to drink too much afterwards, it only leaves you with a headache the next morning. The hangover from this film might last a little longer anyway.