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VISITORS

SYNOPSIS:
Sailor girl Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) sets off to break a solo around the world record, sponsored by a cosmetics company, in a deal her boyfriend Luke (Dominic Purcell) has organised. Alone on her 38 foot yacht Leander, save for her cat Taco, with her one link to the outside world a two-way radio, Georgia is on the homeward stretch when her craft is becalmed in a dense fog. Soon, the demons of her past start to invade her present, including her mother (Susannah York) and her dying father (Ray Barrett).

Review by Louise Keller:
With its impressive list of credits including the talented Radha Mitchell, Susannah York and Ray Barrett in the acting stakes, plus acclaimed cinematographer Ellery Ryan and award-winning composer Nerida Tyson-Chew, it is a bitter disappointment to find Visitors a less-than-enthralling 90 minutes of entertainment. In fact, it feels very long, this story about a lone sailor whose demons from the past haunt her, as the line between reality and fantasy blurs.

The premise makes me think of a Dead Calm setting in the middle of the ocean with a Solaris-like theme of uninvited guests piercing into our psyche. But the premise simply does not last the distance, as the revelation of people from Georgia’s past appearing as ghosts in the night loses its impact beyond the terrifying moments when her mother appears suddenly in the tiny confines of the 38-foot yacht. Radha Mitchell is a terrific talent and is eminently watchable as Georgia, the ambitious young woman whose life has a cloud of guilt hovering above it. She is as good as the material permits, as are Suzannah York as the demented mother, and Ray Barrett as the loving, supportive father. For Georgia, the trip represents a challenge of several kinds: from achieving her life-long dream to dealing with emotional issues from her past.

Everything comes to a head during her journey – from the mental challenges to the relationship with her fiancé, who seems to have an agenda of his own. I was most fascinated by Taco, the ever-faithful ginger tabby cat, who purrs, pricks up ears, snuggles up in bed, hisses and looks quizzically - all on cue. There’s even a moment when he unexpectedly ‘hangs’ himself on a dangling good luck chain – a moment which brought a howl of laughter from one critic sitting in the front row. Fortunately, there was no harm done (to Taco, that is), but unfortunately, the voice of Taco (voiced by Steven Grives) does not work at all, and comes across as some kind of very poor joke. A journey of discovery with psychological and spiritual elements may offer some good ideas for a movie, but that movie has yet to be made.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Even allowing for the restrictions of a low budget, Visitors doesn’t work on any level. A conspiracy of defects sink the film, ranging from a cluttered and laboured screenplay with lacklustre dialogue - and performances to match – plus an unconvincing mise en scene. Jump cuts that leave us not so much edgy as perplexed add to the miseries of a story that tries to patch childhood trauma with the psychological thriller material, and suffering from the oldest danger in the book, of falling between the two stools.

There is no sense of danger, suspense or mystery to sustain us as the story elements are drawn out in sequences that are never quite mystifying enough. There is one moment two thirds into the film, though, where it splutters to life as pirates (I think) invade her boat and attack George. But the scene sets up expectations the script doesn’t deliver.

The biggest weakness of the film is that we never get to care for any of the characters, not even George, the valiant young sailor. She neither looks the part nor has any characteristics other than those we might wishfully project onto her. As for her cat speaking to George in her head, it isn’t pulled off with either wit or inventiveness. The final sequence brings up a music cue of a heavenly choir and church organ, which suggests either somebody’s idea of a jokey clue, or a badly misjudged set of creative decisions.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

TRAILER

VISITORS (MA)
(Aust)

CAST: Radha Mitchell, Ray Barrett, Phil Ceberano, Tottie Goldsmith, Dominic Purcell, Susannah York

PRODUCER: Richard Franklin

DIRECTOR: Richard Franklin

SCRIPT: Everett De Roche

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ellery Ryan

EDITOR: David Pulbrook

MUSIC: Nerida Tyson-Chew

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Daryl Porter (art direction)

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 27, 2003







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