After making some outstanding short films, actor Rachel Ward adapted an American book written by Newton Thornburg in 1984 (the only other film based on a Thornburg novel is Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way in 1980). Ned (Ben Mendelsohn), a writer, leaves the city and drives with his girlfriend Toni (Maeve Dermody) to the isolated property where Bruce (Bryan Brown), his father, is dying. Living with Bruce is Ned’s younger sister, Sally (Rachel Griffiths). Toni, bored and increasingly hostile, is an unsympathetic hanger-on, as dark secrets from the family’s past are gradually revealed – secrets that involve the young Ned (Scott O’Donnell) and his twin sister, ‘beautiful’ Kate (Sophie Lowe). Beautiful Kate is a riveting family drama that evokes the sort of mood Tennessee Williams once created. Flawlessly acted, with Brown giving an outstanding performance as the dying patriarch, the film is gripping from start to finish though the themes it explores, which include sibling incest, proved too confronting for some. The hothouse atmosphere of the remote homestead is superbly captured in this evocative, sometimes erotic, movie.
Festival guest: Rachel Ward
From the Collection of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia