Time Out saysThis feature debut from Australian director Cate Shortland reminded me afterwards of two fairly recent British films, both also made by female writer-directors: Carine Adler’s ‘Under the Skin’ and Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Morvern Callar’. Indeed it’s easy to imagine a younger Sam Morton (who starred in both those films) stepping into this bracing and sensitive coming-of-age story if only because she is such an adept and unusual actress when exploring unspoken desire and curiosity.
Here, 23-year-old Australian Abbie Cornish plays Heidi, a disaffected, sexually explorative teenager who leaves home abruptly after being discovered in bed with her mother’s boyfriend. Heidi heads for Lake Jindabyne, an unglamourous ski resort, where she immediately calls an old contact – a former one-night-stand we assume – who swiftly gives her the brush-off. She spends the night with a passing tourist (cue a second brush-off) and then installs herself in a local motel, takes a job at a petrol station and strikes up a relationship with Joe (Sam Worthington), the son of a wealthy local farmer.
Heidi is looking for security – love even – and her body is one of the few assets she possesses. It’s an ugly dilemma that director Cate Shortland makes her main concern. And Cornish brilliantly indulges the ambiguity of Heidi. Is she naive? Is she manipulative? Is she smart? Is she stupid? She’s all of these, a girl unsure of herself and struggling to make sense of her life.
Shortland successfully transfers Heidi’s instability and inquisitiveness to the cold landscape around her, and so we enjoy brilliant colour washes followed by stark handheld scenes. Small moments count for a lot: the camera lingers as Heidi runs her hand over tiles or fiddles with a pot of marmalade. It’s hard to explore the internal, but here we both observe Heidi and feel something of her experience too. For all this, Shortland well deserves the awards already lavished on her back home in Australia.
Fri Mar 4, 2005