by Del Harvey
“Things just happen, that’s all. And then they’re gone.”
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In New Zealand in the summer of 1972, a 13-year-old girl and her family have made the annual holiday trip to their seaside cottage. Janey, the effervescent teen, and Jim, her young brother, seem content with being near the water while their parents relax the days away, partying each night with the neighbors and cavorting nude in the waves. All seems quite normal, until Dad introduces the family to an artist and drifter named Cady, who takes them for a little harmless fishing trip on his boat. Mom has been downing the Scotch pretty steadily since the opening reel, and when she and Cady are alone in the boat’s cabin for a brief moment, the attraction is obvious. Of all the family members, the only one who seems to have picked up on this is Janey.
In fact, Janey seems to be continually aware of the fissures in her parent’s marriage. Being thirteen, and susceptible to her own torrential changes in hormonal make-up, this other input just adds to her confusion. Even though Mom and Dad continue with the artifice of their marriage, Janey sees right through them. And she has her own needs, and is hell-bent on taking care of them.
Based upon the novel by Kirsty Gunn, the film is quite skillfully written and directed by Christine Jeffs. I experienced a unique quality with this film in that it possesses a pacing that would normally be considered “slow,” but the story and the atmosphere are so artfully presented that the pacing actually emerges as a character all its own. The characters are all very engrossing, but it is the character of Janey which stands out the most. A large part of this has to do with the writing and directing. But it is also the performance of Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, who portrays Janey, which makes her character so likeable, her story so fascinating, and her dilemma so significant. The subtle actions of a pubescent girl and her emotional roller-coaster are captured perfectly in Rain. Ms. Fulford-Wierzbicki’s performance is nothing short of magical.
The rest of the cast, as previously mentioned, is quite good. Sarah Peirse (Beautiful Creatures) plays Kate, the alcoholic Mom. Marton Czokas plays Cady, the hunky drifter. Alistair Browning plays the caring, cuckolded Dad. And Aaron Murphy plays Jim. I found his character most captivating, and wanted to see much more of him. Being the youngest and most free of the complications of adulthood definitely has its appeal.
The film looks “period,” thanks to cinematography by John Toon and faithful production work. Neil Finn of Crowded House fame is given credit for the soundtrack, which helps provide the overall impression of an era long gone.
Rain is only in limited distribution, but I cannot recommend this film enough. Wherever you can, I urge you to see this film. It is worth it for Ms. Fulford-Wierzbicki’s performance alone.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He lives in Southern California, is a former Disneyite, a former Lucasfilmian, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College.
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