This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 3rd November 2013
Forget about springtime for a moment – as far as “event cinema” goes, this Australian adaptation of 17 exquisite short stories is one of the best reasons imaginable to cosset yourself away in a dark room for three highly rewarding hours.
Apparently author Tim Winton has quite a following, so fans of his short stories in particular will be breathless with excitement to know that The Turning delivers all the joy, beauty and devastation of 17 individual but gently intertwined tales around life’s core themes – love, family, faith and fishing.
Each vignette is expertly crafted and they employ a variety of cinematic styles: first we are treated to a wordless love story, where the combination of Music! Sound! Picture! reminds you what film is supposed to be about. Then there is a quieter, but no less gripping, mystery. Another segment presents a masterclass in how to render a whole story in limited time through the use of split screen.
Winton’s narratives traverse almost the entirety of human experience, with most of the films showcasing superb acting and natural dialogue in their depiction of ordinary people’s realistic and often shattered lives. There are scenes with well-known faces (Cate Blanchett drinks wine somewhat awkwardly with her mother-in-law; Hugo Weaving meets his estranged son in sad circumstances; Rose Byrne excels as a make-up-smudged trailer-park wife in a role unlike any you’ve seen her in before) but as impressive as the Oscar winners are the children whose actions may not be as innocent as they seem. Other Australian actors such as Mia Wasikowska and Top of the Lake’s David Wenham make their directorial debuts behind the camera.
Maintaining a steady pace and managing an impressive build-up of tension while characters recur in different phases of their lives, The Turning can be heavy-going at moments but is absolutely worth the commitment. Gird your loins for a cinematic outing of the most compelling kind.