During a typical New Zealand summer in the 70s, 13 year old Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) and her mum Kate (Sarah Peirse), dad Ed (Alistair Browning) and little brother Jim (Aaron Murphy), retire to their modest seaside cottage for a break. The days are filled with fishing, the nights with parties and flirting. Janey catches glimpses of her own mother flirting with a visiting photographer, Cady (Marton Csokas) and is also aware of cracks in her parents’ relationship, as Ed seems unable to comprehend the changes in his wife. And Janey’s own sexuality is awakened, to tragic results.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Rain comes to Australia almost 18 months after its successful debut at Cannes in 2001, where it became one of the most successful New Zealand films to sell to international buyers. Christine Jeffs’ debut film has rightly attracted attention as a cinematic work of great subtlety and visual power. It also boasts two outstanding performances at its heart, by the youngsters of the story, who are the unequivocal stars. The film’s constant mood of melancholy and its unhurried narrative are masterfully controlled. But I am less enthused by the film than some, for the simple reason that in trying to capture the novel’s deeper intimate resonances, the film has – ironically - distanced us from the characters. It’s a darned difficult task, I admit, but to adapt a novel with such delicate inter-personal nerve-endings requires more than the excellence of cinematic language shown here. It’s just a few small, even miniscule, details, on which the film falters, but crucial ones. The partying scenes are perfunctory and void of genuine atmosphere; the establishing sequences are drawn out so as to create false expectations that details within them have some significance. (This is a common enough problem with adaptations.) We aren’t given enough insight into the adults to make them tangible nor to speculate on their real feelings. But I don’t mean to sound too negative: the film is an achievement in many ways, and heralds a fine new talent.
Review by Louise Keller:
It’s funny what tricks memory plays – we remember some things and not others. And when we glance back at our childhood, a certain event or chapter can remain crystal clear – especially at puberty, when the world suddenly looks different. Moody and reflective, Rain recounts life from the point of view of an impressionable, 13 year old girl and the events that take place one lazy summer, when even the clouds drift by slowly. Christine Jeffs’ adaptation of Kirsty Gunn’s debut novel Rain is as cinematic as it is emotionally dense, with an underlying sense of awakening and discovery. The music too (from Neil Finn) is hypnotically languid, affecting us by its tranquil simplicity. The characters are beautifully developed, although even at 92 minutes, the film lags a little. Perhaps the point of view is not always totally convincing, and some events lack credibility. The mother/daughter rivalry is well portrayed – while Janey longs to be like her mother, she also resents her, effecting more tension in the family relationships which are already sagging. Life is quiet and pretty uneventful at the holiday cottage by the sea, where days meld into each other just swimming, laughing and watching birds wading in shallow puddles on the beach. Younger brothers have limited appeal; besides, as the older sister, there’s the responsibility of keeping an eye on him. But life is no longer the same for Janey, as she watches her mother flirt with and be seduced by Cady, the enigmatic stranger who offers her a taste of his cocktails and doesn’t treat her like a child. Cady becomes the catalyst for change for the whole family. Jeffs has created a great sense of place with plenty of texture and mood, emphasising tension in relationships, dissatisfied yearnings and dreams. Much of the film lingers on the clouds, the sky, the water, the sand by day and the casual parties by night when adults dance, drink and run skinny dipping into the water. Performances are excellent all round, but special mention goes to the two youngsters Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki and Aaron Murphy who are extraordinary. The child’s point of view is perhaps not as complete as that in Maurice Murphy’s delightful film, 15 Amore, which recounted life around a particular incident in rural Victoria during the war, but there are moments of great poignancy, as the dramatic curve of the story reaches its peak.
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CAST: Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Sarah Peirse, Marton Csokas, Alistair Browning, Aaron Murphy
PRODUCER: Philippa Campbell
DIRECTOR: Christine Jeffs
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Toon
EDITOR: Paul Maxwell
MUSIC: Neil Finn
OTHER: Art Direction: Kirsty Clayton
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 3, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne)