STARRING: Jane Watt, Camilla Ah Kin, Joel Horwood, Kirsty Marillier, Shiv Palekar
Past tense: from left, Palekar, Watt, Marillier and Horwood
It’s a metaphysical question that never gets old: if you were able to dip back into your life, would you risk the potential psychological danger of confronting what you’ve lost? When a despondent Beth Tweedy-Bell (Watt) discovers an entryway to her past through a greenhouse in the grounds of her Australian family home, she is spooked, then hooked, as memories and regrets enter roaring.
In this otherworld, rendered with subtle supernatural touches by writer-director Thomas Wilson-White, Beth wanders unseen through disconnected snatches of years played out in her house-yet-not. Her late mother Lillian (Rhondda Findleton) is vibrantly alive and her boisterous adoptive younger sibs (Horwood, Marillier and Palekar as Raf, Doonie and Andrew) still live in the home where only Beth and her remaining mother, Ruth (Ah Kin), are left to deal with a subdued present.
It feels preordained, then, that when today’s gnarly sibs gather for Ruth’s 60th birthday, Beth’s fixation with what she lost will intensify. An invisible witness to her dissolution of self, she revisits a former relationship (with Harriet Gordon-Anderson’s Lauren) that she was too afraid to fully explore. She mourns Lilian’s death and the departure of her brothers and sister for the wider world afresh. To Beth, the greenhouse shadow world is more alive than her diminished existence. Then Ruth goes missing, the clan gets in on the act and past and present collide in a creepy antibiosis.
The pain of love undone and the burden of the unrealised are universally poignant themes, yet Wilson-White’s debut feature delivers its mother lode of sorrow with a skin-crawling cautionary kick that’s absolutely his own. The spectres of the past are never to be trifled with, no matter how sunlit their haunting ground.