Patchy production ... heart-rending story.
R Bruce Kehl | Edmonton, AB Canada | 06/18/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a former psychotherapist, it's appealing to view a film that doesn't try to "diagnose," but rather simply tells the story of a heroine who sought to surface through harsh parental abuse and family secrets over the course of 60 years.
If those reading this review intimately knew the tenuousness of life on the street or beach, in an institution of any kind, you would feel a tug of familiarity in this film. Although I'd not rate it as a great film, it's going to touch many if not most of us where it counts. Although I don't know the true story of this woman, I know that the struggle to both survive through the tangled psychological jungle of the human heart and spirit is well exemplified here. Although the quality of sound (what there is of it) and picture is very poor (the worst I've ever experienced on DVD), it's a salute to the story and the filmmaker that many times I felt moved by the journey this woman took ... to haltingly restore herself from horrendous abuse, some of which is only hinted at over the first 20 odd years of her life.
Reminescent of Shine, Slingblade, Joe Gould's Secret, The Fisher King, Breaking the Waves and other films about marginalized imbalanced people, this film retains a core of truth and courage beyond what any of us should have to bear as children and young adults.
Too bad the DVD quality positively stinks, for it does dislodge the viewer from focussing on fine performances in a fine film. Although the heroine's style seems somewhat stilted at times, I'm content to recommend this flick as wholly plausible given its context. I think it's good enough to own and watch again..."
Kate Grenville, where are you?!
Peter Shelley | Sydney, New South Wales Australia | 06/30/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This adaptation by Steve Wright of the Kate Grenville novel directed by Jerzy Domaradzki is a misfire. Using ideas from Janet Frame's story of An Angel at my Table (which was memorably filmed by Jane Campion) and also the Australian urban legend of Bea Miles, this tale of a girl imprisoned for 40 years in an asylum and released as a new actress has great gothic potential, but the best the director can do is use European tints in the lighting and add a melodramatic score. And don't even get me started on the politically correct dreamtime ending! One ponders why Grenville herself did not do the screenplay. As it is, the division of screen time between Ruth Cracknell as the modern Lilian and Toni Collette as the young Lilian, mixes the tone, and things aren't helped by the actors not matching up well. Of the two, Collette is the more successful with her mute retarded vulnerability, allowing Domaradzki to shoot her naked, and the scene of her being chased by a black dog on the beach is probably the closest to the Grenville we want. Playing 3 roles - the father in both time frames and Lilian's brother- Barry Otto gives the best performance, controlling his usual mannered style and using it for character, and as the brother is given a soft sounding tuba as metaphor for his ineffectualness. (His father unfortunately gets lines like "You tight steamy little vixen"). However, Cracknell is doing a great lady of the stage condescending to make a movie, and gets an unintentional laugh when she says she opposes "posturing, posing and affectation". It's easy to see why Cracknell wanted the role since she gets to recite Shakespeare, a literary conceit used for madness which comes across as false, and Domaradzki has her recitals attract crowds in his fantasy world where otherwise this kind of person would easily be ignored. Although regarded highly in her country for her stagework, Cracknell is an actress without the slightest suggestion of lyricism, and Lilian presented as a Cassandra feeds into Cracknell's haughty manner. At one point she boasts that in her life she has taken risks, and it is delivered as "truth" rather than the self-deception it actually is. (Janet Frame's story of survival after her time in an asylum is more effective because her character writes ie does something with her life). To say that Domaradzki is to be admired for Cracknell providing some redemptive subtlety is akin to the story of the Dutch boy sticking his finger in the leaking dike. The revelations that come from the flashbacks of Colette's Lilian aren't too hard to predict. One is probably more surprised by a director who can waste an actress like Anne Louise Lambert as Lilian's mother. However there is a modern payoff for a montage of strapping flashbacks, and a clever line in response to news of a death by heart attack."