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Total Crap: 12%

1 review, 19 user ratings

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Martha's New Coat
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by Trevor Gensch

5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 BRISBANE FILM FESTIVAL: The short film medium is a difficult one, the short feature film one even more so. Getting an effective story across in a shade over 50 minutes can be fraught with troubles, but Martha's New Coat, the new short feature from Rachel Ward, achieves what could be considered impossible; an engaging story with well fleshed out characters. As an added bonus its pretty darn good too.

Martha's New Coat is the latest production from Rachel, best known for her 2000 short film The Big House, which had enormous success, winning the Best Short at the 2001 AFI Awards and the prestigious Australian Film Critics Circle Awards 2001.

Its not a film that outstays its welcome, yet is not too short as to leave the viewer disappointed. There is enough meat in its relatively short running length to satisfy the viewer.

The story centres around 15 year old Martha, played with sombre conviction by newcomer Matilda Brown, a young girl who feels trapped by the small country town she lives in with her carefree mother (Lisa Hensley) and younger sister Elsie (Alycia Debnam-Carey).

Her long jet black hair and swart clothing means she is ostracised by her peers and treated with comic tolerance by her dispassionate and drugged-up mother.

She finds solace in country music from her beat up radio, tuning into a local radio station to escape to another world of soothing guitars and calming tunes.

Martha and Elsie's father left many years ago, and since have had to endure endless boyfriends, the latest of which is larrikin Frank (Daniel Wyllie).

When her mother reneges on a birthday treat for Martha (a visit to the beach) she decides to go anyway, taking her younger sister with her. Her journey to the beach is also a journey to find her father, of which she has few details.

This accomplished effort from Rachel Ward (from a script by Elizabeth J Mars) shows what just can be done with limited resources at ones disposal. All locations are within easy driving distance of Sydney, with Murrurundi standing in as Martha's home town very effectively.

The imagery of this country town is quietly affecting as we watch Martha's frustration with small town life. DOP Cordelia Beresford makes effective use of the locations to add resonance to Martha's journey. Space is used as a visual tool to describe what Martha is experiencing; the closed, hemmed in feel of her local school, the tiny bedroom she shares with her sister contrasts effectively as the landscape opens up on her odyssey to find her father. As her opportunities expand so does the film. The end of the film brings her back to the loving arms of her mother; close, nurturing and safe. But the stark realisation of what life is really like brings her back to claustrophobic confines by the end of the film there really is no escaping it. Its an accomplished achievement by Rachel.

I have a new respect for the short feature medium, in many ways its a more interesting way of telling a story. If the high standard can be maintained, expect to see more stories like these on our big and small screens.

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originally posted: 07/19/03 08:55:07
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For more in the Australian series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/17/12 M. M. Wilson Pleasantly surprised, more please! 5 stars
8/02/05 Bryan Brown My daughter is a talentless cunt 1 stars
8/02/05 Bryan Brown Crap, I coulda done better. 1 stars
6/11/04 Anna Winters i Loved it 5 stars
10/29/03 jessica wicked movie 5 stars
10/24/03 JaimeKate definantly worth watching, georgeous chick 5 stars
10/20/03 Yan moving, beautiful 5 stars
10/19/03 Alida Truong Just loved it!! 5 stars
10/18/03 Sam A brilliant and powerful short film, I found it breathtaking. 5 stars
10/18/03 Mark Rowland A good story, with great supporting music for atmosphere 4 stars
10/18/03 Bob Raymount Absolutely brilliant - I was transfixed 5 stars
10/17/03 Monty Bowie Awesome movies, just fantasic, really good well written and just plain awesome 5 stars
10/17/03 Annika Matilda is awesome! I loved the film and thought that it is even better than i expected. 5 stars
10/17/03 Brad Baker Matlida Brown , breathtaking would love to see some pics 5 stars
10/17/03 Suzanne McRae Top notch, Matilda is a new star. 5 stars
10/15/03 Sarah Partridge An incredibly moving - pure creative genius 5 stars
10/09/03 Debbie Aboozaid (Sandra Hawkins Sister) We saw it at the Bowling Club in Murrururndi but the film was very dark. 4 stars
9/08/03 Ron Ostrenski An excellent film, very real life 5 stars
8/01/03 Double G this is not martha stewart 1 stars
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  07-Jul-2003 (NR)



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