IF A picture paints a thousand words then a movie like The Eye of the Storm paints a million vivid, and often times very picturesque, images of what being family is about. Joyce Ho reports.
In a Sydney suburb, two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. In dying, as in living, Mrs Hunter remains a formidable force on those around her. It is through Mrs Hunter’s authority over living that her household and children vicariously face death and struggle to give consequence to life.
Estranged from a mother who was never capable of loving them, Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush), a famous but struggling actor in London, and Dorothy (Judy Davis), an impecunious French princess, attempt to reconcile with her. In doing so they are reduced from states of worldly sophistication to floundering adolescence.
The children unite in a common goal — to leave Australia with their vast inheritance. Moving through Sydney’s social scene, they search for a way to fulfil their desire. Using the reluctant services of their family lawyer Arnold Wyburd (John Gaden), a man long in love with Mrs Hunter, they scheme to place their mother in a society nursing home to expedite her demise.
Panic sets in as the staff sense the impending end of their eccentric world. Mrs Hunter confesses her profound disappointment at failing to recreate the state of humility and grace she experienced when caught in the eye of a cyclone fifteen years earlier.
For the first time in their lives, the meaning of compassion takes the children by surprise. During a ferocious storm Mrs Hunter finally dies, not through a withdrawal of will but by an assertion of it. In the process of dying she re-lives her experience in the cyclone. Standing on a beach, she is calm and serene as devastation surrounds her.
Named and based on the novel by Australia’s Nobel Prize-winning author, Patrick White, Australian director Fred Schepisi is careful about retaining an authentic Australian-ness with both the casting and set. With the exception of British-born actress Charlotte Rampling, the film features two legendary Australian actors, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis, and was shot in locations in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.
Those unaccustomed to art house films may find the movie draggy at times, as the movie plot does progress rather slowly. Having said that, those who have read Patrick White’s novel would appreciate the care director Schepisi has put in to give the main characters enough depth to appreciate them as complex everyday human beings that have to deal with the misgivings of being in an imperfect family and everything that comes along with it. The film was also not short of a few good, and sometimes funny moments.
Special kudos goes to Rush for his performance in this film, though his character is far from the likeable speech therapist Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech. By the time you are halfway through the movie, your images of Rush as the charming Lionel Logue would have long been replaced by your annoyance with the pompous hedonistic expatriate Basil Hunter.
But it’s not all contempt you feel for the Hunter children. Rampling’s character as the blunt and domineering Mrs Hunter does enable the audience to sympathise with Basil and Dorothy.
The Eye of the Storm opens in cinemas September 15, 2011.
We have five double passes to The Eye of the Storm up for grabs! All you have to do is tell us who you’d like to bring to see the show on Meld Magazine’s Facebook Page and the first five to respond will win.