Magazine article The Spectator

Trail of Wounds

Magazine article The Spectator

Trail of Wounds

Article excerpt

Beautiful Kate

15, Key Cities

Beautiful Kate is one of those emotional-journey films that begins with a family member returning home after a long, unexplained absence and, whatever else happens, you know they are not all going to settle down to a nice cup of tea and a cheerful catch-up. Instead, old wounds will be reopened, secrets from the past will be reawakened, skeletons will clamour to be released from cupboards and the flashbacks will do what flashbacks do: that is, flash back, rupturing the narrative before bringing it together and creating that satisfying whole. As a cinematic plot, this is as old as the hills, but if you like this sort of thing, and I rather do, then you will like this film. It's absorbingly intriguing, emotionally involving and it will get under your skin. It may even still be under my skin.

I'll just check . . . yes, still there, just below my armpit, and I think it's going to be there until next Tuesday, at least. (Some films can stay under your skin for several months, which is fine, but you will need to wear loose clothing. ) Set in Australia, it's directed and was adapted (from the American novel by Newton Thornburg) by the English actress Rachel Ward, who starred opposite Richard Chamberlain in the TV mini-series The Thorn Birds , which may not be relevant, but still: who'd have thought it? Anyway, it opens with Ned (Ben Mendelsohn), a 40-year-old writer who is making the journey back to his outback childhood home along with his fiancee, Toni (Maeve Dermody), a deliciously trampy, petulant sex-bomb. As they travel at night, along a dirt road, their car hits a kangaroo, splattering the windscreen with blood, thereby signalling a tone that means a nice cup of tea and a cheerful catch-up are seriously not on the cards, if you ever thought they were.

Ned hasn't been home for 20 years and now his father, Bruce (Bryan Brown), is dying grumpily, while being nursed by Ned's dutiful younger sister, Sally (Rachel Griffiths, who provides a wonderful portrait of a lonely woman peculiarly at peace with herself). Bruce is finished physically.

He has to be fed. He has to be toileted. But his anger is still on the go, as is his ability to needle, belittle and provoke Ned. …

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