Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is just 16, but her life isn't sweet - and she has been kissed. In fact, she's been doing the kissing, with her mum's (Olivia Pigeot) no-hoper boyfriend. The kiss becomes something of a kiss of death for the mother-daughter relationship right then, and Heidi runs away from their Canberra low-rent home, catching a bus to Jindabyne at the foot of the resort-driven mountains. She is befriended by the motel keeper (Lynette Curran) whose son's mini-flat is empty - while he's in jail. Desperate not to be alone, she uses her newfound, sexually awakend body to make contact with the world. Well, men...well, boys, actually. She takes a shine to one young man who's different, though, Joe (Sam Worthington), the son of a local farmer and a tad more worthwhile than the rest. They are tentatively drawn to each other in a complex journey that is filled with misunderstandings and painful realisations. But the process does help them understand the need for real emotional attachment.
Review by Louise Keller:
Director Cate Shortland's short film Flower Girl has been included on the Somersault DVD, together with deleted scenes, interview with cinematographer Robert Humphreys and an excellent making of feature that takes us from premiere at Cannes to Jindabyne 9 months earlier when the film was made. Shortland talks about her inspiration for the film, and there are interviews with cast members talking about the making of and the essence of the film. We are a fly on the wall in intimate scenes where the camera feels like an intrusion.
There's something magical about the look and feel of Cate Shortland's debut drama Somersault, as it captures the icy cold chill of a young girl's emotional demons. Shortland uses colours and music to create an emotional density, while the wintry Jindabyne settings offer a sense of remoteness. Somersault is a complex film about concealed emotions. Emotions that are churning, weeping, waiting to be discovered.
Shortland's script often feels painfully honest; her protagonist Heidi is emotionally confused, using promiscuity as a bandaid. She is drawn to the intimacies of sex mostly to avoid being alone. Seemingly oblivious to the consequences, Heidi is living for the moment, her sexuality her only asset.
At times reminiscent of a young Nicole Kidman, Abbie Cornish gives a remarkable performance that is both internal, yet communicative. Epitomising a little girl lost, Cornish's Heidi is provocative, playful, moody and defiant. Living in her own isolated world, she dips into past memories through her treasured book of collages and photos. When she meets Sam Worthington's Joe, there is an instant connection, but Joe's emotions are wound up like a tight coil. Worthington has great charisma and their onscreen relationship ignites like an electric current. But emotionally, they are both at a loss, and the scene in which Heidi swallows a bowl of hot chillies in the local Chinese restaurant, is a powerful one, using the shock self-destructive tactics as an act of self-loathing.
All the relationships are nicely developed and evolve naturally. It feels real when Heidi tells Bianca, her co-worker at the BP servo, she feels sure she does not want her to get the job. It is subsequently rather touching when Bianca includes and involves Heidi in her family gatherings. But nothing is simple. The entire cast is excellent with Lynnette Curran as Heidi's sympathetic landlady and Olivia Pigeot in a small, but important role as her mother.
The great strength of Somersault is its ability to draw us into the reality of its characters. While we may not always like them, we understand them and their insecurities, and we care what happens to them. Shortland's assured direction confidently paints bold strokes onto its emotional canvass. It's a thought provoking film whose journey is often confronting and ultimately satisfying.
Published June 30, 2005
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SOMERSAULT: DVD (MA)
CAST: Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran, Erik Thomson, Hollie Andrew, Leah Purcell, Olivia Pigeot, Blake Pittman
PRODUCER: Anthony Anderson
DIRECTOR: Cate Shortland
SCRIPT: Cate Shortland
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Humphreys
EDITOR: Scott Gray
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Melinda Doring
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Inside the Snowdome - making Somersault; interview with cinematographer; deleted scenes with audio commentary from Cate Shortland; Flower Girl - short by Cate Shortland; trailer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
DVD RELEASE: February 23, 2005 (Rental); June 15, 2005 (Retail)