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Australia 1989
Directed by
Ann Turner
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars


No doubt there is a good deal of the autobiographical in Ann Turner’s debut feature which she also wrote. Celia (Rebecca Smart, a child actor who already had an impressive CV) is a 9 year old tomboy growing up in Melbourne in the late 1950s, or what is more evocatively described as “the Menzies era”. Her parents (Nicholas Eadie and Mary-Anne Fahey) are typical suburban squares but Celia’s Granny (Margaret Ricketts) whom she adores is a free thinker. When new neighbours (Victoria Longley and Alexander Hutchinson) who are card-carrying communists move in next door, Celia's loyalties are even further divided. In a rather ghoulish opening scene we see Celia discover her Granny dead in bed and it is clear from this point that we are going to be experiencing events through the little girl’s eyes.

Directorially, Turner does not always handle this material well with something, perhaps a touch of Gothic (when released on VHS in the US it was called Celia: Child of Terror) or Lord Of The Flies-ish sociopathy, missing for an adult audience. Indeed, often one is unclear who is the supposed audience, for stretches of the film look like a children’s telefilm, whilst some of the scenes are too adult to be of interest to, or appropriate for, children (hence the M rating).

Nothwithstanding, Turner does an effective job in re-creating the 1950s when corporal punishment for children was mandatory, women were dutiful housewives and there were Reds under the bed and rabbits were an even bigger menace. She weaves a multi-layered mix of social history, “feminist” ideology and a poignant story of a child’s-eye view of the adult world in a film which if not entirely successful overall rings true in parts.

DVD Extras: A contemporary interview segment and review taken from The Sunday Show; David Stratton interviews Ann Turner (audio); Stills Gallery; German theatrical trailer.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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