100 minutes| Australia| 2009| Colour| D-Cinema

Who’d have thought that glam ’80s actress Rachel Ward would turn out to be a great director? No, forget we said that, come to Beautiful Kate without any preconceptions and immerse yourself in a knotty and involving family drama shaped from old-school storytelling craft and top-notch acting.

Deep in the Aussie outback, prodigal son and pulp novelist Ben Mendelsohn returns to the family farm, where dutiful sis Rachel Griffiths has remained to look after their embittered, bed-ridden father (Bryan Brown, seriously upping his game here). Inevitably, they start raking over the past, stirring up old resentments and painful memories, especially those involving their other sibling, ‘Beautiful Kate’ herself. In the title role, Sophie Lowe is both a beguiling presence and a fearless actress, as the material ventures into morally troubling terrain and emotions get messily potent. It’s a slow build but an intense watch, assembled with the confident precision and unerring instinct of a born moviemaker. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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