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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

Somersault
Directed by Cate Shortland
Magnolia Home Entertainment 04/06 DVD/VHS Feature Film
Not Rated

"Though drawing near puts one at some risk, to be sure, it is the touching of one with another that we become most fully ourselves. Intimacy — between friends, lovers, within the family — at its best includes a radical respect for the other and the willingness to be vulnerable," Marilyn Sewell has written in Cries of the Spirit. This mesmerizing Australian film written and directed by Cate Shortland offers a multidimensional exploration of the search for intimacy by a confused and lonely sixteen year old.

Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is caught by her mother (Olivia Pigeot) in a compromising position with her mother's boyfriend. Her mother's fury and disgust sends this young girl into a quick escape: she takes a bus to Jindabyne, a small ski resort town at the foot of the mountains. She tries to connect with a man who told her to look him up if she ever got to this region of Australia, but has no luck. After spending the night with a young man she meets at a bar, Heidi finds herself alone. Then she meets Joe (Sam Worthington), the son of a wealthy local farmer. He is very taken with her waifish beauty and knows that she is different from the many local women he had dated. But when Heidi asks him to take her home with him, he refuses. They go to a motel and have sex.

Things begin to fall into place for this prodigal daughter when she lands a job at a petrol station and gets a flat to live in thanks to Irene (Lynette Curran), the owner of the motel. Heidi is desperately afraid of being alone, and there is an off-putting edge to her neediness. She tries to become friends with Bianca (Hollie Andrew), a co-worker who invites her to have dinner with her mother and autistic brother. But her openness to this attempt at intimacy can't compare to the vulnerability that she displays in trying to arouse within Joe the same level of emotion that she feels for him. He is burdened with his own pressures, and she is unable to draw him out. When he drinks too much with Richard (Erik Thomson), a homosexual neighbor whose father has just passed away, Joe reveals more about himself in five minutes than he has in all the time he's spent with Heidi.

Intimacy, the sharing of our innermost self with another, is the shining treasure that all of us yearn for. Heidi's palpable sign of this desire is her notebook of collages and memorabilia that she carries with her. Many of the youth in Somersault confuse intimacy with sex and this leads to great disappointment. Abbie Cornish gives a tour de force performance as Heidi, poignantly conveying her vulnerability, her self-destructive tendencies, and her childlike wonder over the new world she has discovered as her own private playground. The pain that she suffers mainly comes from guilt over her mother's anger and scorn. The pleasures she experiences arrive in many different flavors. It's all part of her inward journey which is capped by a surprising and emotionally satisfying finale.


Special DVD features include an "Inside The Snowdome: Making Somersault" featurette; deleted scenes with commentary by director Cate Shortland; and a "Shooting Somersault" interview with cinematographer Robert Humphreys.

 

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