Sunday 20 March 2005

Somersault (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

Heidi (Abbie Cornish) makes a cup of coffee for her mum's boyfriend. He says it's perfect. She asks to touch the tattoo on his chest. She kisses him. Her mum walks in on them. She runs away to the mountains (you'd never think Australia had ski resorts) and tries to forge a new life for herself by sleeping with a few guys. One of them, Joe (Sam Worthington), who works on a farm, is reticent and cold in a familiar, macho way; but Heidi somehow gets through to him, under the surface, which scares him. It's like walking through a cloud of perfume, he admits to a male friend: you can feel her on your skin after you've been with her. She's only sixteen.

Director Cate Shortland captures something off-the-wall, something thriving in its syncopation of life, something funny where perhaps it isn't meant to be and threatening when it's harmless. There is a recurring image of the snowflake, the virgin whiteness of a fallen dewdrop of moisture; and the spectre of a buried life in the submerged village under the surface of the man-made reservoir which is the water of life to this smalltown mountain community. Time is suspended: the week or so she is away from home feels like a lifetime and a day in a life all at once. The unusual becomes the normal. Heidi gives all of herself to those who don't want it. She learns what it's like to see more in a relationship than the other person, that there's a difference between physical intimacy and being loved.

Shortland and Cinematographer Robert Humphreys show both Heidi's girlish innocence, her eagerness to explore the junk room of other people's forgotten mementos, her lonely solo playground games; juxtaposed against the maturing womanhood of her body and her self-sufficiency.

Nugget: like an old standup piano, there sometimes strikes an off-key note; but in that honkey-tonk, there's some kind of charming tune.

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