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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Well
Directed by Samantha Lang
Fox Lorber 01/97 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Not Rated

Hester (Pamela Rabe) is a lonely spinster with a club foot who lives with her ailing father on an isolated farm in Australia. She arrives home one day with a new maid named Katherine (Miranda Otto) who has recently been released from a reform school. Hester yearns to possess this free spirit who first entranced her dancing wildly at a party. She tries to draw Katherine into her staid world of chamber music and requiems. Perhaps her most contented moments are when this maid brushes her long hair and braids it.

Harry Bird (Paul Chubb), the gruff overseer of the farm's finances, doesn't know what to make of Hester's obsession with this newcomer, especially when her father dies and she sells the farm. The two women move into a small cottage. They store the cash from the sale in biscuit tins and linen sacks. Hester wants to take Katharine on a trip to Europe recreating the only beautiful time in her life when her nanny took her abroad when she was twelve years old.

Hester's dream of future adventures is shattered one night when she allows Katharine to drive and the impulsive young woman runs down a stranger. The spinster — always quick to take charge — dumps the body down the well on their property. Then they discover that their cash is missing. Did this fellow steal it before he died on the road? Katharine, in a state of shock, becomes convinced that the man is still alive and that she is in love with him. During a long and anxious night of heavy rain, Hester dreams that she is confined to her kitchen chair by her long braid of hair.

In her debut as a film director, Samantha Lang proves herself to be a master mood maker. The nuance laced screenplay is adapted from Elizabeth Jolley's novel by Laura Jones (An Angel at My Table, The Portrait of a Lady). This unconventional and macabre Australian film stands alongside Jane Campion's Sweetie, Kate Croghan's Love and Other Catastrophes, and Shirley Barnett's Love Serenade as another exploration of yearning and the always fascinating subject of relationships between women.

 

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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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