Somersault

Australian writer-director Cate Shortland's debut feature unfolds in the same thorny thicket of adolescent sexuality explored by French filmmaker Catherine Breillat in such discomfiting films as A REAL YOUNG GIRL (1975) and FAT GIRL (2001). Restless 16-year-old Heidi (Abbie Cornish) lives in Canberra with her single mother, Nicole (Olivia Pigeot), until...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Australian writer-director Cate Shortland's debut feature unfolds in the same thorny thicket of adolescent sexuality explored by French filmmaker Catherine Breillat in such discomfiting films as A REAL YOUNG GIRL (1975) and FAT GIRL (2001). Restless 16-year-old Heidi (Abbie Cornish) lives in Canberra with her single mother, Nicole (Olivia Pigeot), until Nicole walks in on her live-in boyfriend and her daughter in a carnal embrace. Heidi flees north to icy Jindabyne, a resort town in the Snowy Mountains, for no better reason than that she once slept with a guy who told her to call if she were ever in the neighborhood. She calls, a woman answers, and Heidi realizes she's stranded with no money, no job and nowhere to stay. Secure on nothing but her ability to exchange sex for favors and the fleeting illusion of affection, Heidi allows Joe (Sam Worthington), a local from a well-off ranching family, to pick her up. But what starts as just sex develops into a more complicated relationship that satisfies neither and puts Joe at odds with his parents and friends, who can't believe he's wasting time with some low-class drifter. Heidi, meanwhile, begins building a fragile semblance of an adult life: Sympathetic motel owner Irene (Lynette Curran) allows her to stay in a room vacated by her imprisoned son, and a tentative friendship blossoms with coworker Bianca (Hollie Andrew) after Heidi lands a job at a convenience store. But Heidi is her own worst enemy — needy, impulsive and too unformed to think through the consequences of her reckless actions; with no emotional ballast to steady her, she retreats into drinking and joyless promiscuity whenever she feels threatened or lonely — indiscretions that return to undermine her fragile progress. Cornish's raw, nuanced performance and Shortland's sympathetic but unsentimental portrayal of Heidi's fumbling steps toward maturity are underscored by Sydney-based band Decoder Ring's catchy, angst-ridden score. Shortland's self-consciously poetic imagery and vivid use of intense, saturated color evoke Heidi's melodramatic vision of the world, and the wintry locations are a dramatic change from the usual outback imagery that dominates Australian films.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Australian writer-director Cate Shortland's debut feature unfolds in the same thorny thicket of adolescent sexuality explored by French filmmaker Catherine Breillat in such discomfiting films as A REAL YOUNG GIRL (1975) and FAT GIRL (2001). Restless 16-yea… (more)

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