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"Somersault": Fleeing teen takes long road to trust
Special to The Seattle Times
Patience (much, much patience) is slowly rewarded for waiting out the monotonous visual flourishes and enigmatic character development that make much of the Australian production "Somersault" a chore to sit through.
But on the other end of all that is a nicely shaped, emerging little story about two damaged young people who help each other open up, a little bit, to love.
Abbie Cornish plays 16-year-old Heidi, whose only certainty seems to be her self-aware, sexual attractiveness to men. Fleeing home after getting caught making a play for her mother's weak-willed boyfriend, Heidi heads to the small town of Jindabyne.
There, she focuses on survival — getting a job, a place to live — and uses sex with strangers to get by in the meantime. Eventually, good things happen: a motel manager (Lynette Curran) takes pity and puts Heidi up, and the girl develops a stiff but promising romance with a farmhand, Joe (Sam Worthington).
Once the latter enters the picture, "Somersault" (which played at the 2005 Seattle International Film Festival) becomes a better movie. Where Heidi is concerned, writer-director Cate Shortland offers us not much more than a blurry road map to teenage wasteland: erratic, self-destructive behavior, candy-wrapper cluelessness occasionally offset by an out-of-nowhere mature insight. Much of this is shot in a feverish blur Shortland seems to think connotes directorial style.
Worthington's character is more interesting dramatically. Joe's terse exchanges with a coldhearted father, his thin-lipped evasiveness in response to Heidi's initial come-on, and his hints of depression offer something fresh.
The final third of "Somersault" is where a point emerges, not coincidentally the same time Joe and Heidi's relationship is in full swing and their characters are facing up to trust, compassion and loyalty.
Shortland's payoff is good and redolent of wisdom. But getting there is like sitting in a waiting room with stale magazines.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company