"One of the more eloquent cinematic experiences of the year."
After a recent chorus of hyped attention-seeking Australian films, it is easy to overlook the quiet voice at the back, that is Terra Nova. Hush, because New Zealander Middleditch's feature debut is a voice that needs to be heard.Escaping the trauma of her prostrate family home in New Zealand for Australia, Ruth, reunited with her four year old daughter Tuesday, takes refuge in Terra Nova, a beachside block of flats, in hope of a new life with her daughter.
The film focuses on the interaction between Ruth and her fellow tenants, a real circus of the insane, and how she unexpectedly finds solace in them as their apparent insanity reflects the various facets of her fears. In embracing them she finds the resolve to confront the psychological phantom of her father.
Splendid performances across the board, from the frenzied Nazi Nutter (Gebert) to the macho but tender Simon (Kelman), all provide an intriguing foil to a compassionate lead by Cronin (The Boys).
Treated with restraint, and only allowed off the leash to tackle duties of oral sex and kneecap to face violence, the characters are rarely allowed to impeach on Ruth's alienation, but they still manage to conjure up tension and sympathy as their own secrets are slowly triggered. The tenants' secrets, coupled with the subtle ambiguity in the story of Ruth's past provides the audience with dual intrigue.
The real driving force of the movie though, is the majestic cinematography that articulates the story through a lexicon of luscious imagery evoking the emotion, distress, brutality and humour of the story. It exudes a European feel and you're almost left looking for the subtitles.
The Kiwi director's debut provides Australian cinema with a solid benchmark, although it lacks a distinguished ending to give the film completeness.Terra Nova is a frightfully assured debut, offering one of the more eloquent cinematic experiences of the year. This is a quiet voice with a lot to shout about. ---David Michael