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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner3/03/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

Gorgeous to look at and impressively directed, Somersault is an enjoyable coming-of-age drama with a stunning break-out performance by newcomer Abbie Cornish.

Somersault is the debut feature by Australian writer-director Cate Shortland, whose name may be familiar to UK viewers from C4’s The Secret Life Of Us. The film received a warm reception from both critics and audiences at last year’s Edinburgh Film Festival and it then went on to win an impressive 13 awards at the AFIs, the Australian equivalent of the Oscars (or Ozcars, if you will).

Its success will hopefully be repeated here, not least because of its stunning central performance by newcomer Abbie Cornish.

Young Runaway Attempts To Fend For Herself

21 year old Cornish plays Heidi, a gorgeous 16 year old who runs away from home after getting caught kissing her mother’s boyfriend. She winds up in the snow resort town of Lake Jindabyne, hoping to contact an ex-conquest, but he doesn’t want to know and Heidi is forced to fend for herself.

She gets a stroke of luck when she begins a tentative relationship with Joe (Sam Worthington), a local farmhand, and is offered a place to stay by a local motel owner (Lynette Curran). Finally, she lands a job at a garage and befriends her co-worker (Hollie Andrew). However, Joe has struggles of his own and his refusal to commit to Heidi leads her to damage her newfound relationships as her world starts to unravel.

Though not quite her debut, this is Cornish’s first lead role in a feature film and she gives a superb performance as Heidi, who is a complex mixture of childish innocence (symbolised by her ever-present scrapbook) and a powerful, almost dangerous sexual confidence that belies her emotional naivety. It doesn’t hurt that Cornish is drop-dead-gorgeous to boot - in fact, she bears a remarkably coincidental resemblance to both Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, the two stars her career is most likely to emulate.

In addition, there’s strong support from Sam Worthington and Lynette Curran, as well as Erik Thomson, who gives a sensitive performance as Richard, an ex-local and a neighbour of Joe’s who provides a sympathetic ear.

Beautifully Shot And Presented Film

Somersault is beautifully shot by cinematographer Robert Humphreys and Shortland makes strong use of the landscape. It’s also an extremely sensuous film - a lot of attention is paid to smells, sounds and textures in both the sumptuous visuals and the script itself. In addition there’s an impressive score by the band Decoder Ring.

There are several great scenes. Highlights include Heidi talking to herself in the mirror and pretending to be Joe; her various scenes with Lynette Curran; a disturbing chilli-eating scene that has more than a touch of Betty Blue about it; and a lovely shot of Heidi angrily training a hose on the window of the petrol station after she falls out with her co-worker.

At first glance Somersault seems like the sort of film (e.g. the aforementioned Betty Blue) where everything is going to go horribly, horribly wrong, but it has a few unexpected twists up its sleeve and the ending is surprisingly moving.

In short, Somersault is an enjoyable, impressively directed debut that’s worth seeing for Abbie Cornish’s stunning performance. Indeed, this could well end up as one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 19/01/2020 18:39

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