Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Cannes Marathon: Somersault

(Played at the Un Certain Regard Section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival)

Written and directed by Cate Shortland, Somersault is the story of a 16-year old runaway who travels to Jindabyne from Canberra in Australia where she meets a young man who is unsure of his identity. The film is an exploration into the search for identity between two young people who are both in the trenches between childhood and adulthood. Starring Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Erik Thomson, and Lynette Curran. Somersault is an ethereal yet enchanting coming-of-age film from Cate Shortland.

The film is a coming-of-age tale in which a 16-year old girl runs away from home after making out with her mother’s boyfriend as she lands in Jindabyne Lake in hopes to start a new life. Though she eventually gets a job and a place to live, she befriends the son of wealthy ranchers who is going through a sexual identity crisis of his own as the two have a relationship though neither are unsure if it’s love or just sex. It’s all about a girl who is in this state of transition of girlhood and adulthood where she can be mature at times and can fend for herself but she’s also hung up on things like partying and making scrapbook collages filled with unicorns and glitter. Even her name in Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is somewhat girlish though she doesn’t seem to act like a girl.

Cate Shortland’s screenplay doesn’t carry much of a plot in order to explore Heidi’s sense of wonderment as she travels from the suburbia of Canberra to the ski town in Jindabyne Lake early in the film. Heidi is this girl who wanders into every situation as she can be quite going but also very introspective when she isn’t surrounded by large groups of people. In Joe (Sam Worthington), Heidi finds someone she thinks who can love her and be with her but Joe isn’t very sure as he likes to wander around to. Even as he starts to have feelings towards his neighbor (Erik Thomson) who already admits to being gay. Though Heidi would befriend a co-worker in Bianca (Hollie Andrew), she has no clue how to befriend someone who is quite different from her as Bianca lives a very careful life with a little brother suffering from Aspberger’s Syndrome.

Shortland’s direction is definitely stylish in the way she presents the film as she incorporates a lot of dreamy images to the scenes that play out including moments where Heidi wanders around this small town through its pubs and such. While a lot of the compositions and framing is straightforward with some close-ups and wide shots, Shortland infuses a lot of strange camera movements to create this sense of dream world where a girl can wander around as it includes a lot of slow-motion shots and exotic images in the snow and rain. Even as the camera would create frames that are filled with these moments of surreal images to play up the sense of emotions of Heidi. Overall, Shortland creates a very mesmerizing yet captivating drama about a young girl growing up.

Cinematographer Robert Humphreys does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and entrancing cinematography filled with gorgeous usage of blue filters to play out the sense of dreaminess that Heidi encounters. Editor Scott Gray does amazing work with the editing as it has this array of style from jump-cuts and exotic frame speeds to play up Heidi‘s wonderment. Production designer Melinda Doring, with set decorator Glen W. Johnson and art director Janie Parker, does nice work with some of the set pieces such as the apartment flat Heidi stays at to some of the pubs and clubs that she and Joe frequent.

Costume designer Emily Seresin does terrific work with the costumes from some of the clothes that Heidi wears including the red mittens she buys at the BP where she later works at. Sound designer Sam Petty does superb work with the sound as it features some layers in the sound mixing for some of the parties and clubs along with the intimate moments in the more natural surroundings. The film’s music by Decoder Ring is fantastic as it’s largely low-key with its dreamy, ambient-based music while the soundtrack consists a mixture of pop and rock music in the clubs the characters encounter.

The film’s cast is excellent as it includes some notable small roles from Nathaniel Dean as Joe’s fellow ranch worker Stuart, Olivia Pigeot as Heidi’s mother, Damien de Montemas as the boyfriend of Heidi’s mother, Hollie Andrew as Heidi’s BP co-worker clerk Bianca, Erik Thomson as Joe’s neighbor Richard, and Lynette Curran in a wonderful performance as the hotel owner Irene who lets Heidi stay at her incarcerated son’s flat. Sam Worthington is superb as the sexually-confused Joe who is a young man that befriends Heidi as he isn’t sure if he’s in love with her or is just using her to fulfill his sexual needs. Finally, there’s Abbie Cornish in an exhilarating performance as Heidi as this young woman who is trying to find herself in a new town while dealing with her own identity as she is caught between the world of childhood and adulthood as it’s one of Cornish’s finest performances.

Somersault is a phenomenal film from Cate Shortland that features a brilliant breakthrough performance from Abbie Cornish. The film is definitely a visually-exotic as well as an evocative film that explores a young woman coming of age while meeting a young man who is also trying to find himself. It’s also a film that explores two people’s fascination with sex and its implications as they transition into adults. In the end, Somersault is a remarkable film from Cate Shortland.

Cate Shortland Films: (The Silence (2006 TV film)) - Lore - (Berlin Syndrome) - Black Widow (2021 film)

© thevoid99 2013

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