Blakemore's 'quality' riff on Uncle Vanya is set down under in 1919. Deborah (Scacchi) is the object of desire, the frustrated younger wife of a pompous theatre critic (Blakemore). Returning from London to his stepfamily's ornate ancestral pile in New South Wales, the pair, respectively, spark ardour and resentment in the Anglophile household: Dr Askey (Neill), drinker, pacificist and conservationist, is smitten with Deborah, as is his rival, the nervous, artistic and generous master of the house, Uncle Jack (Hargreaves). Meanwhile, fresh and self-effacing as the critic's abandoned daughter, Fox steals the acting honours. Blakemore introduces some intriguing reflections on colonial coming-of-age, but they are sketched in such bald, symbolic strokes, it feels easy to be ahead of the game. For the rest, there's a lot of the camera gazing on impressive Hunter Valley locations, and a working over of small snobberies, racism and manners in candle-lit dinner scenes. Neill takes Scacchi for a walk in the bush among the rutting 'roos, where he gets - 'Hadn't we better get back!' - to unbuckle her shoe. Well-dressed, entirely respectable drama, but with little cinematic frisson.
Cast and crew