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Somersault (2004)

  Directed by: Cate Shortland
Written by: Cate Shortland
Starring: Hollie Andrew, Abbie Cornish, Lynette Curran, Nathaniel Dean, Erik Thomson, Sam Worthington
Music by: Decoder Ring
Links: Somersault on the IMDb
Genre: Drama
Awards: AFI Awards: Best Film 2004 (winner)

This movie gets: 8.50 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 35th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Somersault (2004) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Joy (2000), pearly's review of Peaches (2004) and pearly's review of Tom White (2004).

"Quite amazing" - a review by em_fiction

pearly was almost right with her prediction that this would be one of those films where she'd give 8 and I'd give 10. There's a good reason why she was so close as well: this is one superb Australian film.

I hadn't really been keeping up-to-date with the film world lately, so to be honest I hadn't even heard of Somersault before I saw pearly's review. Of course, after seeing her clairvoyant statement about me giving it 10, I took it as a recommendation. And of course, being the cheap bastard that I am, I took the first Monday of the school holidays as an opportunity to take advantage of Nova's "Cheap Monday" (or whatever) to see it for five bucks, and let me tell you, it was certainly worth it.

Somersault is about Heidi (Abbie Cornish), a sixteen year-old daughter of a neglectful mother. She runs away from home after getting caught making out with her mother's boyfriend, heading for the mountains where she supposedly has connections. Unfortunately, she is left stranded in the middle of nowhere after things don't exactly work out. Enter Joe (Sam Worthington), a disillusioned local who befriends Heidi, forming a bond between the two, and this kicks off a little journey of self-discovery in the remote snowfields of Jindabyne.

Somersault is an incredibly beautiful film. So beautiful. It's hard to stress how beautiful it actually is. Everything, from the characters, to the scenery, to the music, to just the overall atmosphere of this isolated town; it's like an escape for both Heidi and the audience. The blurry colours and intermittent focusing of the camera creates this dream-like escape world out of this isolated town, but for the protagonist, we're not quite sure whether she's going through heaven or hell — perhaps she goes through a little bit of both.

The film is very dramatic and solemn; I don't think I remember any instances where it alleviated the audience from its austere nature with humour, like most dramas do for brief moments. But the way it maintains its austerity is emotionally charged, engaging and at times, unsettling. Cate Shortland does a fine job with the film keeping everything simple: the plot, the dialogue, the characters; Shortland doesn't try to complicate things with too much emphasis on love or conflict. It's simply about Heidi, and how she evolves as a person through meeting these people, and how the people evolve themselves as a result of meeting her.

The acting is absolutely perfect. Cornish is stunningly beautiful, and very young looking indeed, being a twenty-two year old playing someone who's sixteen (almost as impressive as twenty-four year old Alison Lohman convincingly pulling off the role of a fourteen year-old in Matchstick Men (2003)). Worthington is also a truly fantastic Australian actor, I don't think anyone could've been more perfect than him for the role. Cornish and Worthington really make this film. Why isn't it a 10? Well, some bits just weren't perfect I guess. I don't really want to mar it by pointing out exactly where its flaws lie; I just didn't really feel like it was a 10. It was also to prove pearly wrong.

I heard somewhere that Somersault received a standing ovation at Cannes this year. I'm not surprised; definitely one of the best Australian films around at the moment. I tip it to win big at the this year's AFI Awards. If not, there's simply no justice.

em_fiction gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 13 Oct 2004

"I can do a somersault" - a review by pearly

Somersault is director Cate Shortland's first feature length film. I have, prior to seeing Somersault, seen Shortland's short films, and, giving them an average rating of just 5.75, I must admit that I didn't hold much hope for this critically well-received debut. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this film, and it's probably one of those films where I'll give it an 8 and em_fiction will give it a 10, like has happened on so many occasions.

As is the case with all of Shortland's work, Somersault is a bit of a meandering journey. It's also fairly light-on for dialogue, but full of visual metaphors (kind of like the polar opposite to a Richard Linklater film), most of which I probably didn't get (what was with that bit where she was doing the primary school hand-clapping game with herself?).

Sixteen year old Heidi (Abbie Cornish) heads off on her own after being caught getting intimate with her mother's boyfriend. She catches a bus to remote Jindabyne, hoping to find work on the snowfields with a guy she once met. When this doesn't pan out, she goes to a club instead, where she is scoped by Joe (Sam Worthington).

Fairly directionless, Heidi gets a dead-end job at a service station and tries to figure out what her relationship with Joe is all about. Cornish is beautifully natural as Heidi, with her devil-may-care attitude towards things. Worthington is like a screen veteran, coming in and owning the situations that his character is placed in. He looks kinda hot with that longer hair, too.

One of the best things about Somersault though, is the music. Penned by Decoder Ring, it's an atmospheric dream. It proves that movie scores don't have to be 100% classical to evoke the mood of the piece. But now I'm just sounding wanky.

I don't have much more to say about this film. It's definitely got quite a signature style running throughout (that of, no doubt, Shortland), from the swirly handwriting credits, to the colour-rich visuals (portions reminiscent of her experimentation in Flowergirl (1999)). It's the kind of film that will be enjoyed by an artistic person who doesn't need a strict story to keep them interested.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 6 Sep 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 8.50
Lowest rating: 8 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 9 (by em_fiction)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. how old is sam worthington playing in this movie, i know heidi is 16 but it doesnt say anywhere how old he is, could u let me know

    A comment from brooke on Sun 05 Jun 2005 00:58 #

  2. Didn't care for the film or the characters. What a load of wank!

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from jess on Tue 07 Jun 2005 17:25 #

  3. An unbelievable story about the need to capture intimacy. Great cast, inparticular Sam Worthington who plays the role of Joe..see it or you truly are missing out!!

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from sarah crystal on Tue 23 Aug 2005 12:31 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 5.00 (2 ratings)

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