Dir. Cate Shortland. 2004. N/R. 106mins. Abbie Cornish, Sam Worthington, Lynette Curran.
Heidi (Cornish), the 16-year-old heroine of this Australian drama, keeps a scrapbook/diary in which we can see the usual memorabilia of a girl’s imaginative world: fashion images torn from magazines, a birthday card, a drawing of a unicorn with sparkle for its mane. She spends a good part of the film in a mountain town, but this Heidi is no innocent: She is a young woman taking her sexuality out for a test-drive, and she barely qualifies for a learner’s permit.
Within the first five minutes of the film she has kissed her mother’s boyfriend and, caught in the act, left home with no clear plan. She winds up in the ski-resort town of Jindabyne, where she is perfectly ready to have sex with a guy simply to have a place to sleep. But then she meets hunky local Joe (Worthington) and decides he might be the love of her life. Of course, that’s just another step in her ongoing experiment in adulthood.
Films about girls’ sexual awakenings are pretty thick on the ground (we suppose films about boys’ sexual awakenings are less common for the simple reason that endless, frantic bouts of masturbation aren’t all that cinematic…) and Shortland does fall into a few of the most familiar patterns: intense close-ups of sensuous details, a fair amount of water imagery, an emphasis on the tactile. Still, Cornish is absolutely perfect at capturing the insanity of those first steps into the adult world.—Hank Sartin