Having heard nothing whatsoever about the movie Somersault the write up on play.com inspired me enough to make a purchase alone with no further research; this for me is unusual. Somersault won 13 Australian Academy Awards, was praised by pretty much every reviewing body, and is described as one of the most beautiful looking movies of all time. I must at this point redefine my view of the word beauty because in fairness to this lovely little movie I found little or no beauty to it.
Heidi lives with her mother in the suburbs of Canberra, they both seem to share a great relationship with one another. But Heidi mother is not interested in sharing everything with her daughter and is distraught to return home to find her boyfriend and Heidi in her bed. Heidi decides its time to make a move and heads for Lake Jindabyne in search of an old flame. No sooner has she arrived in this unusual resort of lakes and snowy peaks than she realises that pursuing this old flame will be fruitless. For Heidi rather than upping sticks and heading for another location she decides to set up home, and at first it seems she is going to pull her life together.
I remember years ago hearing a song entitled “I’m just a girl who cant say no” this was ringing through my ears the entire movie; for the simple reason that during the movie everybody who makes a pass at her gets a little something. Heidi is not a girl of loose morals as such, she just wants and needs to be loved. Unfortunately for her and a dozen women I have encountered in my life she goes about it all the wrong way, and that’s really quite sad. No sooner has Heidi arrived at the lake than she is off to bed with a guy, what she wants at this point is a roof over her head and some company. As the roof side is provided from a kindly hotelier called Irene, Heidi is prepared to have sex with someone for a job and some company. But slowly the reasons for her offering herself finally come down to just needing love.
Its made apparent quite quickly in the movie that Heidi is not functioning quite right, she is certainly not the full ticket. If it were not for this fact you’d classify Heidi as a slapper quite quickly after the movie begins. Its this discovery that endears her to you, her annoying mannerisms and behaviour seem justified; you literally want to step into the movie, pick her up and hug her. The people around her at Lake Jindabyne don’t see this side of Heidi, they just see her as a slapper, or trailer trash. That’s the really sad aspect, because as Heidi gets herself a boyfriend, a home, and a job people start wagging their fingers at her disapprovingly and from a viewers perspective this makes you feel quite sad for her plight, if not a little tearful.
The nice thing about Somersault is that it shows you all the dimensions of all the characters without needing to explain too much. Joe who becomes Heidi’s on off lover is torn in many ways and you can see clearly all the things pulling him in all directions very early on from his introduction. Irene is clearly shown as a caring woman trying to help Heidi and rectify the mistakes she made in trying to save those round her. And in saying two words you understand exactly what the issue with Joe’s father is. This is a fantastic talent of both great filmmaking and great storytelling and I’m sure that this is where the movie received much of its acclaim.
I personally found that Lake Jindabyne looked like a desolate place, and the only real plot weakness is that the towns size is never really explained. This is something that bothered me from the offset, while the town is labelled as being tiny it boasts several nightclubs. The redeeming factor of the location is the snow, it gives the movie a very festive feel even though its based at a time that we here in the UK would be enjoying summer.
Somersault has only minimal plot, there is no magnificent storyline and really from start to finish there is nothing that really happens. That being said its such a lovely movie from so many different perspectives that it invites you in for a second viewing. It has a ring of the German classic Christianne F. about it, with a touch of subtle Australian soap opera styling. it’s a timeless piece that until the mention of DVD players and XBOX’s seemed like it was set in the 70’s; all the music is from the 70’s and the fashions and dcor is firmly stuck in the same decade.
For a movie that fundamentally offers so little it addresses so many issues: sexuality, honesty, regret, suffering, murder, bullying, depression, love, the list just goes on and on. Somersault is so far one of my favourite movies of the year and a future viewing is not far away.