At many points throughout the film, Somersault seems more like an effort in style than a meaty Australian drama in the vein of the best Lee Tamahori and Jane Campion movies. The film is not exactly without an arc, but it meanders its way through the story more than necessary at times. The disillusioned montages and POV shots are beautiful, but they only serve to create effervescence that’s not substantial to the plot. By the end of the movie, during which everything wraps up nicely, there’s nothing to walk away with from these characters.
Heidi (played brilliantly nonetheless) by Abbie Cornish is the disillusioned leader of the cast whom we first meet when she seduces her mothers boyfriend one morning, for what reason we’ll never know. The guy is petty scuzzy to begin with, and instead of brushing her off for the lost young woman that she is, he takes her up on her offer. When they’re interrupted before anything too serious happens, Heidi takes off on her own in the belief that her mother doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore.
She ends up at a sleepy town in the north of Australia where everyone seems to know everyone and newcomers are not generally welcome. Using her unmade-up beauty to her advantage with all the males she comes in contact with, Heidi finds herself sleeping around to get by. Soon she meets a young man that she falls in love with, but he is more concerned with his appearance to his friends than sorting out his feelings for her. There’s also a scene, which is never really expounded on, where he hooks up with another guy in town apparently sorting out whether or not he is gay as well. Why this was thrown into the film is beyond me as it seemed way off cue and took me (comically) by surprise.
Of course, from here you can pretty much predict where the film is going to go and conflict will ensue. Director Cate Shortland’s debut feature doesn’t leave me wanting more from the film, but I look forward to her next project whatever it may be. It’s easy to detect Shortland’s influences and style and she is certainly able to put together the shell for a great work of film, but it’s empty and disposable by the time the credits roll and there are hundreds of coming of age stories out there that will far surpass this throughout the history of film.