Gillian Armstrong, the Australian director of My Brilliant Career and Mrs. Soffel, creates interesting character portraits in High Tide.

Judy Davis stars as Lilli, a drifter who is stranded in a shabby little Australian beach town when her car breaks down. A heavy drinker, she has spent years on the road after the death of her husband. Lilli begins an affair with a local fisherman (Colin Friels), but is soon itching to be on her way again. However, she is drawn to a dreamy adolescent named Ally (Claudia Karvan) who loves surfing and the ocean. Lilli learns that the girl, who lives with her paternal grandmother, is the daughter she abandoned years ago.

High Tide, written by Laura Jones, slowly and stylishly explores Lilli's struggle as she wrestles with her desire to stay on the run and her need to forge a lasting bond with her daughter. Judy Davis's spell-binding performance keeps us from writing off this narcissistic, irresponsible, and immature character. When Lilli finally admits, "I've always thought I lived a brave, adventurous life but I've been a coward," it's he start of a hopeful mother-daughter reunion.