Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Somersault (Cate Shortland, 2004)

Somersault is exactly the kind of film I want to make, and exactly what I picture a film written and directed by a woman about being in that in-between stage of childhood and womanhood to be. Heidi (Abbie Cornish, in the role that first brought her international attention) kisses her mother's boyfriend and then, having been caught, runs away from home to Jindabyne, the Australian skiing city. From there, she gets an apartment, tries to get what she wants through her sexuality, and eventually connects with a young local who is trying to figure himself out as well.

Heidi is at once self-destructive and incredibly brave. At 16, she leaves home (when she doesn't need to) and goes to live on her own, but at the same time, she drinks heavily and gets herself into situations that aren't smart. She depends both on other people to take pity on her and help her out, but also on her own internal resources to figure out how to use people. In short, Heidi is a loveable and a contemptable character, an amazingly accurate representation of what it's like to be a teenage girl of a certain kind in today's society. Shortland doesn't particularly judge Heidi, and in fact, she shows a kind of empathy for her. Heidi is one of the most realistic characters I've seen on film in a long time.

The cinematography in the movie is gorgeous. Much of it seems like a dream, as it's shot in hazy blue tones. The making-of documentary on the DVD shows the actual colors of the Australian landscape as compared to the lushness of the actual movie, and it's like night and day. Shortland uses colors like a pro to portray the inner workings of Heidi, and her confused quasi-boyfriend Joe. The sequence portrayed in the above poster, where Heidi searches for herself in the mirror, is stupendous. The interplay between Heidi, who doesn't understand normal human interactions and can only express love through sexuality, and her coworker's brother, who has Asperger's Syndrome and can honestly not understand human interaction, is so touching, although it's totally from afar. When the boy's mother teaches him about emotions, Heidi watches on with a look that shows she wishes she could have that direct kind of instruction. It's heartbreaking.

Somersault is such an accurate depiction of a confused teenage girl who doesn't know the difference between sex and love that I cannot recommend it more. It's confident and a clear vision from a first-time director, a woman who knows what she wants to show and isn't afraid to do so. With her performances here and in Candy, Abbie Cornish has shown some real promise. Definitely rent this movie.


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