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New Zeakand 2003
Directed by
Christine Jeffs
92 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


An official selection at Cannes, this New Zealand feature is a skilfully-crafted visual realization of an evidently thoughtful novel of the same name by Kirsty Gunn. Director Jeffs is well-known in her homeland as an award-winning commercial director (she has done videos for Neil Finn, who did the music for this film) and this, not surprisingly, means that Rain is carefully composed, visually seductive (the excellent cinematography is by John Toon) and sports a pop-oriented soundtrack. Such things do not necessarily make a good film but Rain has depth, albeit for some, perhaps, staying on the surface of things too much and being a tad to languorous in the telling.

Thirteen year old Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki) and her family are on their summer holidays. Her parent’s marriage is falling apart, they both drink too much and her bored, flirtatious mother (Sarah Peirse) begins an affair with a handsome wayfarer (Marton Csokas). For a young girl on the threshold of adulthood this is a provocative time.This is very much a woman’s film, not in the classical sense of melodrama made for a female audience, but in concentrating on the female characters and in being reflective in mood and observational in approach to its story. The latter is seen through the eyes of the strong-willed, independent Janey, who, largely neglected by her self-preoccupied mother and depressed father, is in the process of discovering the power of her sexuality. The result is a simple but not simplistic study in the psychology of behaviour. The performance by Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki is quite remarkable in this respect (she appears not to have pursued an acting career).

On the downside, the film shifts gears rapidly in the latter stages in order to bring the narrative to its conclusion. Although I have not read Kirsty Gunn’s original text and so don’t know how much of this is attributable to it or to Jeffs' re-working of it, it seemed rushed, if not entirely unnecessary. It's an an unusual comment for any film, but at 92 minutes Rain could have gone longer even if it is a sombre, moving work and not for a light-hearted mood.

DVD Extras: Nothing special here - general production notes, cast and crew profiles and promo reel.

Available from: Madman




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