Eight years after the trailblazing My Brilliant Career, Gillian Armstrong and Judy Davis collaborated once again on High Tide, for which Davis won the New York Film Critics’ and AFI awards for Best Actress. The setting is Eden on the NSW South Coast where Lilli (Davis), a back-up singer for Elvis imitator Frankie J Holden, becomes stranded with a broken-down car and little cash. Coincidentally, Ally (Claudia Karvan), the daughter she abandoned years earlier, is living with her grandmother, Bet (Jan Adele) in the local caravan park. Mother and daughter meet, while the grandmother agonises that the child will be exposed to emotional distress. The screenplay by Laura Jones avoids any hint of cheap sentimentality – instead this is a raw and deeply felt movie in which the fractured relationships are painfully real. Colin Friels makes a strong impression in a key supporting role, but it’s the links between the three women that make the film unforgettable. The bleak, wintry seaside setting is exquisitely photographed by Russell Boyd.
Festival guest: Gillian Armstrong
From the Collection of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia