Australian director Fred Schepisi's first home-grown feature in over 20 years seems to be a bitter-sweet celebration of Australian-ness: it's an adaptation of Australian Nobel laureate Patrick White's novel about the decadence of a tony Sydney family, rendered in the baroque, claustrophobic mood of a sickly-sweet Edwardian manse where time seems to have stopped somewhere in the past at the matriarch's whim, set in the early 1970s as the adult children (Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush) return from abroad to reunite with their dying mother (Charlotte Rampling).

     Unfortunately, both plot and structure-wise, The Eye of the Storm pretty much brings nothing new to the slow disappearance of an earlier, more genteel way of life, as well as to the traditional coming to terms with one's past; the characters are all pretty much stock, from the opposites-attract nurses to the money-obsessed, emotionally scarred children, and the handling is occasionally clumsy, most often clearly illustrative more than inspired. But Mr. Schepisi's careful attention to the actors, and their own commitment to the story, make these characters exist beyond stock as human beings faced with "life, death and everything in between". In fact, the entire ensemble cast's clear grounding of the characters as real people who are all facing difficult moments in their own lives, whether for selfish or altruistic reasons, is what tricks the viewer into believing The Eye of the Storm is a better film than it seems to be. For all that, what really beguiles and makes it well worth seeing is Ms. Rampling's nuanced portrayal of the imperious matriarch, a tour de force of wily theatricality and nervous vulnerability that anchors the film solidly.

Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Charlotte Rampling, Judy Davis, Alexandra Schepisi, Helen Morse, John Gaden, Robyn Nevin, Colin Friels, Maria Theodorakis

Director: Fred Schepisi
Screenplay: Judy Morris, from the novel by Patrick White, The Eye of the Storm
Cinematography: Ian Baker (colour, processing by Deluxe, Panavision widescreen)
Music: Paul Grabowsky
Designer: Melinda Doring
Costumes: Terry Ryan
Editor: Kate Williams
Producers: Antony Waddington, Gregory Read, Mr. Schepisi (Paper Bark Films in association with RMB Productions, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Screen Australia and Film Victoria, in co-production with Ingenious Broadcasting)
Australia, 2011, 119 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9, August 10th 2012


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