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Rain (2002)
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by Thom

"Land, people and narrative flow together in a stark portrait of motherhood"
4 stars

Big studios know how to churn out The Romantic Comedy™ and give audiences a feel good happy ending because they think that’s what people want. Box office receipts prove it, right? Big studio Romedies (for short) don’t usually focus on the complexity of desire as much as the comical road to pairing. Looking at the flipside of that, the tragic road to separation, would be depressing if it wasn’t for the possibility that things fall apart because things change and people are constantly ordering themselves around many points of pain and pleasure. Rain, based on the novel by Kirsty Gunn (praised by the New York Times as “an exquisitely written first novel), looks at generational desire from the point of view of a mother and her young adolescent daughter. The object of their common lust is the steady, silent and sexy photographer who lives on a boat in the harbor of their summer residence.

The premise may come off as an episode of Jerry Springer but Rain is no about spectacle or even conflict. The story doesn’t irresponsibly and gratuitously feature man/girl sexual relations but tastefully and artfully keeps the story tightly told from the girl’s point of view. An artier critic would call it “refreshing and honest”. Rain is about indulgence and exploration and understanding about the daily life where things just happen: rocks, boulders, fallen trees diverting life from flowing in a steady stream.

The atmosphere of the film, which takes place during a summer holiday is loose and permissive. Every night is a party and every day another opportunity to suspend your worries about work and finances and sink into leisure and contemplation. Alcohol is a character of it’s own in this film and it should get star billing since its on screen in almost every scene. And yet, its not talked about, just referenced to. A more puritanical American film maker could have drawn the conclusion that “alcohol causes infidelity”. Infidelity is not on the table. There is a permissiveness. Kate (Sarah Pierse, Heavenly Creatures) has shifted the role of caretaker onto her young daughter while her husband reluctantly turns a blind eye to her infidelity.

Rain keeps a tight focus daily life and the drama that arises from the living of it. Living is in the details and the most mundane moments take on mythic significance: The sharing of bread, the pouring of a drink, the way you move your arms while you dance.

Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki (if she were American, she’d have to change her name to something like Alicia Fulbright) plays a remarkably lucid 12 year old Janey. While Janey is forced to take on an adult role, she still needs mothering and direction while also needing the freedom to learn her own lessons in living, some of which aren’t pleasant and can even be tragic.

Rain is a journey of growth for the characters and there is significant character development. The film is a pregnancy and the final scene is when the real family is born and life will be very different then the one in the womb. They are in the world and for many years those characters will have that end of summer as a reference point from where they “began”. For Janey it truly is a beginning of her adult persona while for Kate and Ed (Alistair Browning, The Lord of The Rings), it is yet another beginning in a life where it seems you never stop starting again.

The family is disintegrating from internal and external forces and we are left with “tomorrow they will have to start making sense of all this”.

Aaron Murphy, who plays Janey's kid brother, Jim, made his acting debut in <i>Rain</i>. His acting coach, Maya Dalziel, stayed near him day and night to polish up where nature left off. All the actors had to create complex characters with complex motivations and cross-purposes. Everything was in its element. The story was told with New Zealand in the background by actors from New Zealand and the groovy, mellow atmosphere of land, people and narrative flow together beautifully.

While Murphy comes off as a pro on screen, behind the scenes, he took him some time to get used to the process of making a film and being surrounded by people all the time. “He liked to tell other people how to do their jobs.”, said Jeffs.

Jim helps to anchor the film along with the photographer, Cady, played by Marton Csokas.

Csoka’s gentle, animal presence, exuding sexuality and artistic eye were contrasted by his rough, boatman’s hands. It’s difficult to draw a character like that, except in the abstract, with a pampered Hollywood star. I can see a younger Michael Douglas or Charlie Sheen as Jim in the Hollywood remake because it’s a great image for a romantic lead “personality”. In Rain, you get a palpable, actual dream guy rather than a writer’s fiction and a make up artists creation.

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originally posted: 05/11/02 06:32:10
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User Comments

11/01/04 beauty is nice A fine, moody film that evokes my own memories of lazy days in a shack with family 4 stars
9/04/04 Phil M. Aficionado Andrew Howe's review captures my own reaction, exactly. Good film, well acted. 4 stars
5/22/02 Heather Honest portrayal of a family whose relationships are on the rocks 4 stars
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