Thursday, 14 October 2010


Sharmill Films/Jump Street Films
Opens October 21

Summer Coda is a film about loss, mourning, letting go and once more opening yourself up to the possibilities of life. They're profound subjects for any first time filmmaker to tackle which is why you can forgive writer-director Richard Gray for sometimes confusing his deliberately languid pacing for serious contemplation.

Heidi (Rachel Taylor) has flown back to Australia from Nevada to attend the funeral of her estranged father in rural Victoria. Her father, who imparted his love of music to her, left Heidi and her mother when she was just six; they soon left for the US and never saw him again. Understandably, Heidi has many unresolved issues.

So, too, does Michael (Alex Dimitriades), who offers the hitchhiking Heidi a ride. We don't learn what Michael's secret is until much later in the film when Heidi, having fallen out with her father's widow (Susie Porter), comes to stay with him on his orange grove. Here she picks fruit with a rag tag bunch of itinerant workers, including Angus Sampson and Nathan Phillips, who know about Michael's past. They're protective of their friend and employer, simultaneously hoping and fearing that Heidi could be the one to 'bring him back'.

Like any first time film, Summer Coda has its strengths and weaknesses. It could certainly do with some tightening; losing some 15 to 20 minutes would help. And a flashback revealing the source of Michael's pain also seems unnecessary. But the performances are good; Taylor's Heidi is prickly but not unlikeable while Dimitriades, who has always had a warm screen presence, allows that warmth to come through Michael's reserved facade.

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