16-year-old Heidi (Abbie Cornish) runs away from home after being caught when her mother’s boyfriend kisses her. She ends up in a small town in the mountains where she tries to connect with people. With men, that mostly means sex, though that doesn’t really end well. She finds a motherly friend in Irene (Lynette Curran) who offers her a place to stay; and she finds a job. And then she finds Joe (Sam Worthington) and kind of falls in love with him. But Joe is withdrawn and rough and is still trying to figuring out his own sexuality.
I hadn’t heard much about Somersault before seeing it, I basically bought it because Abbie Cornish is in it. What I got was an emotional, engaging and beautiful film with a wonderful ending.
Most coming-of-age films, at least in recent years, seem to be comedies. And there is definitely something to exploring the difficult process of groing up with a sense of humor. But it’s a fact that a lot of people don’t have fun with puberty, especially when they’re in vulnerable positions. And showing the vulnerability without making them into victims, is a difficult job. Fish Tank achieved it, for example. And Somersault did as well.
Heidi and Joe are both vulnerable in different ways and they both try their best to handle themselves and their lives, but with not all that much success. Trying to find solace with each other is also doomed to fail when they can barely reflect about themselves and their wishes; nevermind speaking about it. It’s a difficult, almost toxic combination. And yet, Shortland makes sure that the film doesn’t drown in sorrow and difficulty. Instead it ends on a hopeful note. Things aren’t quite good yet, but they might be at some point.
Both Cornish (always great) and Worthington (usually better than the material he’s given) give wonderful performances with emotional depth that is incredibly affecting. I don’t know how many times my heart broke throughout the film and how hard I was rooting for them to get through their own lives without too much damage.
That this is a feature debut makes it even more impressive. To paint such an emotional picture with such controlled strokes definitely isn’t easy and means that I can’t wait to check out Shortlands other movies.
Summarizing: Really fantastic. Total recommendation.