Beautiful Kate Review

Beautiful Kate Review

Beautiful Kate

Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Bryan Brown, Maeve Dermody, Rachel Griffiths, Sophie Lowe
Director: Rachel Ward
Genre: Drama, Mystery.
Rated: MA 15+
Running Time: 101 minutes

Synopsis: Set on a homestead in the Australian outback, Beautiful Kate is the story of Ned Kendall, his relationship as a teenager with his twin sister Kate, and the emotional aftermath of a series of tragic events which unfold when he is sixteen.

Told in parallel narratives of past and present, the story follows adult Ned's return home after an absence of twenty years. The impetus for his visit is that his father Bruce is dying and has demanded his return. Along for the ride with Ned is his 21-year old fiancée, Toni, a sexy waitress/wannabe actress who knows nothing about Ned's family and is surprised to learn of the existence of his twin.

When Toni stumbles on Ned's diary, which recounts the sexual awakening of the three siblings growing up in isolation, she is astonished by the revelations. Unable to cope with the shock, Toni flees back to the city leaving father and son alone together. Past events become clearer to Ned and he realises, almost too late, that he has wrongly held his father responsible for what happened all those years ago. Seeing the truth for the first time Ned is able to let go of his obsession for his beloved sister and begin the emotional journey of reconciliation with his estranged father.

'Beautiful Kate' is based on the Newton Thornburg novel.

Verdict: Beautiful Kate is a story of a sexually dysfunctional family who have experienced many unfortunate mistakes. These lead to an ill-fated tragedy and their lives filled with guilt.

The family lives in isolation in the Australian bush, and the film investigates the sexual experimentation of the three siblings, two boys and their sister. The main issue explored throughout the movie is the confusing and tragic issue of incest.

The movie switches from the past to the present; showing the journey of the family, and how the mistakes of the past now impact tragically on their present lives.

As the story progresses we learn of the family secrets that are buried under years of guilt. The movie proves that there is need for reconciliation between a father and a son, regardless of what has happened in the past.

Beautiful Kate is a brave and in-depth movie which deals with important and challenging topics. The acting is phenomenal and perfectly adapted by director, Rachel Ward. Ward has chosen a magnificent mix of music to proceed alongside striking acting, both of which encapsulates you into the tale whether you enjoy the storyline, or not.

Beautiful Kate is an example of fabulous cinematography and is created for the mature art-house movie type; it may be a challenge for your regular movie goer.

Rating: ****

Brooke Hunter

My Verdict:
Writer Ned (Ben Mendelsohn) is travelling to his remote childhood home with his much younger fiancé Toni to visit his estranged father (Bryan Brown) who is dying and asked for him to come home, his younger sister Sally (Rachel Griffiths) imploring him to 'behave' when he arrives. It is during the following days that Ned's memories of his adolescent days haunt him as he strives to understand and reconcile the emotions that are stirred as visual images restir past memories.

First time feature director Rachel Ward has elicited such powerful and emotionally stirring performances from all the cast. Although based on a novel set in America, Ward has successfully transferred the setting and filmed on location in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia giving an immense feeling of the isolation, remoteness and distance that befalls the family. It is this setting that becomes the catalyst for a series of events that leads to a tragedy that changes the family forever.

Ben Mendelsohn is outstanding as the torn and guilt-ridden Ned. He uses visual queues, such as the nearby dam, from his childhood home and surroundings that transport him via flashbacks to events that happened years before. He writes about these events, trying to reconcile his feelings, which creates problems between him and Toni (excellent Maeve Dermody) who is fed-up with the isolation and feeling neglected. She in turn communicates this to Ned's father played with such candour and humility by Bryan Brown. Watching Brown grudgingly accept his impending death is downright amazing especially the physical limits of his situation, including loss of bladder control, his inability at times to feed himself and even the sheer effort of breathing. Sophie Lowe is outstanding as Kate, Ned's twin sister. In a challenging role, Lowe gives Kate a provocative and alluring yet also naïve quality that is brimming with a youthful honesty. She is simply a natural. Rachel Griffiths is also excellent in her almost understated role as younger sister Sally.

Beautiful Kate is often demanding given the sometimes-controversial subject matter and may be uncomfortable and even confronting for some. Incest is a contentious subject that can be treated many ways, but Ward has respected the issue without exploiting it just for sensationalism. The movie may seem almost depressing at times but there is also a lingering hope for resolution that is finally met. Combined with an often-haunting soundtrack from Tex Perkins and Murray Paterson and the beautiful landscape setting of the Flinders Ranges, this is a triumph for Rachel Ward and indeed all the others involved.

Rating : ****

Christina Bruce

In Cinemas August 6th 2009

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