“Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person.” - Tennessee Williams
We watched a couple of good films this long weekend in Melbourne. Today is a public holiday – Labour Day and in Melbourne we celebrate Moomba – a carnival-like festival with many events, activities, exhibitions, a parade and fireworks. We didn't feel up to going down and having a look this year, instead we had a lazy long weekend spent indoors and in the garden.
For Movie Monday today, my review of the 2010 Australian film by Shirley Barrett, “South Solitary", starring Miranda Otto, Marton Csokas and Essie Davis. Barrett also wrote the screenplay and the movie was filmed at Cape Nelson, Victoria, Australia, not too far from where we live (well, comparatively speaking anyway)! The location of the film is of prime importance and the desolate small island that the action takes place in gives plenty of opportunity for wonderful cinematography.
All of the plot takes place on a remote windswept island off the coast of Australia in 1927. The period atmosphere is recreated well and the costumes, furniture, props and manners of the time are portrayed well. Wadsworth (Barry Otto) is a veteran of the lighthouse service who has been sent to the remote South Solitary lighthouse to bring the staff into order after several complaints that the lighthouse is not functioning as it should, have been lodged by passing ships. Accompanying him is his niece Meredith (Miranda Otto), an unmarried 35-year-old woman, whose fiancé perished in WWI. The family living on the island are resentful of Wadsworth’s and Meredith’s arrival because they assumed that Harry (Rohan Nichol) would be automatically promoted. World War One veteran Fleet (Marton Csokas) is another regular worker at the lighthouse, and he does not seem to like the new arrivals either. He has serious psychological issues to deal with and his introverted, unsociable personality make him appear aloof and dysfunctional.
The isolation soon begins to take its toll on the desperate Meredith and her demanding uncle. Events come to head when Meredith becomes involved in a situation that leads to some departures from the island. Nevertheless, it is the isolation and enforced companionship between Fleet and Meredith that eventually gets them to realise that they share more than they are willing to acknowledge.
The performances of the key cast are very good and Miranda Otto is especially notable as the psychologically scarred and love-lorn Meredith. Csokas is excellent as the equally soul-damaged Fleet who has his own issues to deal with. The film has little action and proceeds at a leisurely pace with the direction being very low key and understated. Perhaps some more film should have been left on the cutting room floor, or else some more action and incident added to pepper the interest of the viewer. The film has been stunningly shot on location at lighthouses near Point Nelson and Cape Otway, by cinematographer Anna Howard.
The theme of the film is faith, love and hope. Cardinal virtues that can serve as redeeming features in the lives of flawed personalities. All characters in this film all are flawed and it is the redemption of two of them that makes the film successful and satisfying ultimately. The survivors at the end of the film can be seen to have overcome their self-loathing and despair and the hope that they discovered together will redeem their lives eventually.
This is a long, slow film best considered as a “relationship drama” that will bore many people that are looking for action, thrills and spills. However, we found it engaging and curiously involving, even though there are some faults in its construction and plot. The actors do a sterling job and the magnificent location and cinematography, as well as the understated score by Mary Finsterer all contribute to making this a good movie to watch.