Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

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Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:07 am

[Note: This review was originally posted online on Nov 18, 05.]

*A 2006 U.S. Release*

Compelling coming-of-age films are hard to come by these days, so when one does, it should be recognized and rewarded appropriately. Winner of 13 Australian Academy Awards, Somersault not only offers a complex and thoughtful look at the burgeoning sexuality of its protagonist, but its debutante director Cate Shortlands unique and sensitive vision also transcends the film formally. Heidi (Abbie Cornish), our protagonist, is an attractive 16-year-old who runs away from home after getting caught kissing her mothers boyfriend. She ends up in a small ski-resort town, where she decides to use her sexuality as a means for discovering herself. It isnt long, however, that Heidi catches the eye of the local twenty-something Casanova, Joe (Sam Worthington), whos also experiencing an identity crisis. Initially, Heidi only represents the latest sexual escapade for Joe, but as she settles in the surroundings, he gradually discovers the invaluable effect shes had on him.

While the film is mostly seen from the point-of-view of Heidi, and rightfully so, the attention Shortland grants to Joe is noteworthy. Often, in these types of films, one finds the filmmaker simply circling around the protagonist, ultimately ending up with nothing to say. But in Somersault, this key secondary character is allowed a preeminent dimension thats even obscured from Heidi. Working with DP Robert Humphreys, Shortlands metaphorical excursions to depict her protagonists inner processes initially resemble Claire Denis trajectories from Friday Night (2003), but as her canvas is forced to expand with Heidis physical and emotional conquests, the new landscape almost certainly brings Lynne Ramsay to mind. Thats not to say that Shortland doesnt eventually find her own unique path -- she certainly does, only losing ground occasionally. But none of that wouldve mattered if it wasnt for the brilliant performances of Cornish and Worthington. Cornish, especially, conveys the emotional fragility of her character in a very tactile manner.

Grade: A-

*SOMERSAULT premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) in 2004. Magnolia Pictures will distribute the film in the U.S. starting on April 14th.

*The film is available on DVD in the U.K.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby Anasazie » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:29 am

Somersault is an awful film.

13 AFI awards mean nothing when you look at the nominees list and see what kind of rubbish the film was up against.

The music is airy fairy and dull, the visual (blue!) style is unoriginal, tacky and lacking in depth. Cate Shortland's made some fantastic short films, but as with another great Aussie hope Ivan Sen, her first foray into feature film-making is emotionally and socially immature, not to mention grossly under-written.

She consistently cuts away from scenes before they're fully realised, i assume as an attempt at some kind of elusive "euro" feel, but the finished product is really quite naive in the ways of modern art cinema. She needs to sit down and watch some proper films before her next foray into the world of yet more irrelevant Aussie celluloid waste.

Cornish however, is an absolute revelation and the only reason i sat through the whole thing.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:48 am

Well, I couldn't disagree more. The music and her visual compositions were meant to complement the protagonist's thought process and they did that quite well.

As for editing, I thought, if anything, the film needed a bit more of it. Cornish will be a star very soon. But other than that, we're certainly on a different wavelength here.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby Anasazie » Tue Apr 04, 2006 4:59 am

As always.

Just because a cliched visual style is meant to complement a character's thought process doesn't mean it's working, doesn't mean it's not plain to see and really quite didactic. It's great that you can see all the things that a film-maker has tried to express, and frankly this one was so obvious who couldn't? but that doesn't mean any of it's working.

The film doesn't need more editing, it needs more thought, it needs more writing, as with so many Australian films that get pushed into production before they're ready.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby trevor826 » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:16 pm

I must admit I have good memories of Somersault, I am about to reaquaint myself with it as I've just managed to purchase the dvd at a very reasonable price.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby wpqx » Fri Apr 06, 2007 7:10 pm

Again with what has become a love it or hate it film debate here I find myself in the middle, althoug leaning more towards arsaib's viewpoint. I mean there are a lot of stock characters in here, and the coming of age film seems to be a choice between serious soul searching, or comedy. Perhaps this film could have used some comic relief, as it overwhelmingly was very bleak, which was only accentuated by the landscape. We're all in agreement about the star's performance here however. I couldn't help labelling Heidi as a total whore early on in the film, and each time she went out, I kept thinking "oh boy the next cut is going to show them having sex", and I didn't want to see that, which might seem surprising coming from me. I just didn't want this character to be wandering through bedrooms. In all I think its an accomplishment, and the world needs more female directors that's for damn sure, I just hope we can get a more concerted effort next time around.

Re: Cate Shortlands Somersault (Australia / 2004)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:44 pm

I'm glad you watched and liked Somersault. Shortland's follow-up was The Silence, a two-part made-for-television crime-drama which I missed last year in Toronto (I was later told however that it primarily garnered a spot due to her debut feature). And, yes, we could certainly use some young and talented female directors, especially from the English-speaking world.

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