Adapted from Kirsty Gunn's acclaimed novel, New Zealand director Christine Jeff's debut feature is a small masterpiece of atmosphere. Jeff shifts Gunn's original setting from an English lakeside retreat to a small New Zealand beach community where, in 1972, 13-year-old Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) and her family are spending the summer. Janey's parents, Kate (Sarah Peirse) and Ed (Alistair Browning), spend long, hot afternoons in the yard, slowly getting sloshed on whisky and lemon, and the evenings dancing to rock music and getting even drunker at nightly parties. Janey, who's pretty much left alone to care for her little brother, Jim (Aaron Murphy), watches her parents' antics with bemused detachment; she's reached the age when nothing her mother does is right, anyway. Their already shaky relationship worsens when Janey's burgeoning curiosity about the opposite sex collides with her mother's awareness of her waning sexual appeal. The catalyst for that collision is Cady (Marton Csokas), a sexy indigent photographer whom Ed befriends. After an afternoon spent flirting during a family outing on Cady's boat, and a moment of drunken kissing at a party — an indiscretion Janey witnesses — Kate and Cady have a brief affair. Without quite understanding her own attraction to Cady, Janey is furious at her mother and torments her with leading questions while beginning her own determined pursuit of Cady — a pursuit that will end in an unforeseeable tragedy. It's a perceptive, often humorous, snapshot of a young girl at a critical stage in her adolescence: The sexually curious Janey begins fussing over her body image, cutting out pictures of models from magazines and asking Cady to photograph her wearing one of her mother's dresses for her own "portfolio." But it's also a poignant portrait of Janey's middle-aged parents — a father who's begun to fear his life is a failure and a mother who's not yet middle aged, but already regrets the loss of her freedom. Jeffs and cinematographer John Toon (BROKEN ENGLISH) perfectly capture the woozy feeling of warm summer days, and the soundtrack includes vintage songs by Dusty Springfield and New Zealand's own guitar gods Human Instinct. The lovely, melancholy original score is by Neil Finn.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: NR
- Review: Adapted from Kirsty Gunn's acclaimed novel, New Zealand director Christine Jeff's debut feature is a small masterpiece of atmosphere. Jeff shifts Gunn's original setting from an English lakeside retreat to a small New Zealand beach community where, in 1972… (more)