STARRING: Rose Byrne, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Miranda Otto, Richard Roxburgh, Colin Friels, Susie Porter, Robyn Nevin, Dan Wyllie, Kate Mulvany
DIRECTED BY: Jonathan auf der Heide, Tony Ayres, Jub Clerc, Robert Connolly, Shaun Gladwell, Rhys Graham, Justin Kurzel, Yaron Lifschitz, Anthony Lucas, Claire McCarthy, Ian Meadows, Ashlee Page, Stephen Page, Simon Stone, Warwick Thornton, Marieka Walsh, Mia Wasikowska & David Wenham
Trouble and strife: Blanchett and Roxburgh
The constant refrain through the 18 short films that make up this doorstop Australian drama, adapted from Tim Winton’s 2005 book of short stories, is that each of its characters is yearning for something, be it freedom, release, understanding or a sense of rightness. The individually directed vignettes connect as a multi-paned portrait, like peeking through different windows as you walk down a street at night.
Then again, glimpses are only, and frustratingly, just that. The snapshot situations vary in dimension and many could have used more. In “Big World”, two boys make an abbreviated bid for freedom. In “Aquifer”, a man relives a traumatic childhood experience. In “Damaged Goods”, a wife attempts to understand her husband’s teenage infatuation. And so on. “The Turning” itself is the most effective, featuring a de-glammed Byrne as a woman in a narrow and abusive relationship, awakened by her new friendship with a born-again Christian (Otto). More of such impactful revelations and less artful contemplation — as beautifully packaged as it is—and this whopping study could justify its butt-numbing length.