The Well

A grim and deliciously twisted Gothic chiller from the dark side of sunny Down Under. Middle-aged, unmarried and entirely devoted to the care of her ailing father and his sprawling homestead, Hester Harper (Pamela Rabe) returns from town one afternoon with something for herself: a teenage orphan named Kathy (Miranda Otto), whom Hester claims to have hired...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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A grim and deliciously twisted Gothic chiller from the dark side of sunny Down Under. Middle-aged, unmarried and entirely devoted to the care of her ailing father and his sprawling homestead, Hester Harper (Pamela Rabe) returns from town one afternoon with

something for herself: a teenage orphan named Kathy (Miranda Otto), whom Hester claims to have hired to help out with the housework. But when Kathy balks at doing any actual work, a smitten Hester begs her to stay anyway, and Kathy soon becomes Hester's pampered guest. Once Hester's father dies,

all restraint and responsibility fly out the window: The two spend their time frittering away Hester's inheritance, planning fantastic trips to Europe and warbling German lieder on the dusty upright piano. Having let the farm go to seed, Hester is forced to sell the big house and retire to a

cramped and decrepit cottage on the edge of the Harper property. There, an unexpected visitor intrudes on their idyll, a horrible accident occurs and Hester's dream world comes crashing down. First-time feature director Samantha Lang and veteran screenwriter Laura Jones stick close to Elizabeth

Jolley's mordant novel while making a few wise excisions: Rather than reproducing Jolley's off-beat dialogue, they rely on the extraordinary chemistry between Otto and the Canadian-born Rabe to flesh out Jolley's themes of destructive erotic obsession, deviousness and betrayal. Jones — who's

adapted novels for Jocelyn Moorehouse (A THOUSAND ACRES), Gillian Armstrong (OSCAR AND LUCINDA) and Jane Campion (AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE, PORTRAIT OF A LADY), whose earlier films are thematically and stylistically echoed here — has a knack for short, pungent scenes. Combined with Mandy Walker's

ice-blue cinematography, the overall mood is as dank and chilling as the film's central image: the deep well in front of Hester's cottage, that holds something far murkier than water.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: A grim and deliciously twisted Gothic chiller from the dark side of sunny Down Under. Middle-aged, unmarried and entirely devoted to the care of her ailing father and his sprawling homestead, Hester Harper (Pamela Rabe) returns from town one afternoon with… (more)

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