UK Release date: 10th February 1995
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 18th December 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
This film is based on a true story; it chronicles the events leading up to a murder in 1954, New Zealand. It’s the story of a very close friendship formed between two teenage girls and how it lead to murder. Ever since I saw the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy I have always been looking out for other works directed by Peter Jackson. This one has come up several times in discussions and so I was very pleased when the BBC gave it an airing earlier this week. Here’s a brief plot summary before I give you my thoughts.
We begin in Canterbury, New Zealand, 1953 where Juliet Hulme has arrived at her new school from England. She forms a friendship with Pauline Parker, an impressionable girl who shares her love of the opera singer, Mario Lanza. They quickly form a strong bond, one that is made stronger by the fact that they both have had bad illnesses in the past. They begin writing stories about a fantasy land with various colourful characters. They re-enact scenes from the stories and eventually this fantasy land becomes real to them. Their parents become worried that their friendship is becoming too intense. As events unfold, it transpires that Juliet’s parents are planning to divorce and she is to be shipped out to an aunt in South Africa. This hit’s Pauline hard and, because she has been having a particularly hard time with her mother, they hatch a plot to get her out of the way. I can’t say any more or the spoiler police will be escorting me down a country path.
It’s all beautifully shot with some really great CGI in the fantasy scenes; I can now see just why Jackson was chosen for those other films he made later. Great performances from both of the starring actresses. I thought Melanie Lynskey was really excellent as Pauline Parker and, in her first movie role, Kate Winslet did a first-rate job as Juliet Hulme. Honourable mentions must also go to; Sarah Peirse as Honora Parker Rieper, Diana Kent as Hilda Hulme, Clive Merrison as Dr. Henry Hulme, Simon O'Connor as Herbert Rieper and Jed Brophy as John/Nicholas.
Peter Jackson pays great attention to detail and it is the details that make this a particularly good film. It’s a period piece and it really looks the part with every detail as it should be. As I’ve already mentioned, the CGI is expertly done and fits seamlessly into the story. It’s quite an unusual plot with much of the action focused on just one of the girls, Pauline, but then it was based on her diaries. In fact, much of the narration is made up from direct quotes from her diaries. It may not be for everyone, but I found it quite engrossing and well worth a look… Recommended.
My score: 8.5/10.
IMDb Score: 7.6/10 (based on 30,765 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 95/100 (based on 42 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 82/100 (based on 35,964 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Pauline Parker: [voiceover, from her diary] We have decided how sad it is for others that they cannot appreciate our genius.
Pauline Parker: Oh, I wish James Mason would do a religious picture! He'd be perfect as Jesus!
Juliet Hulme: Daddy says the Bible's a load of bunkum!
Pauline Parker: But we're all going to heaven?
Juliet Hulme: I'M not! I'M going to The Fourth World... it's sort of like heaven. Only better, because there aren't any Christians!
Pauline Parker: [Narrative from the diary] My new year’s resolution is a far more selfish one than last year. It is to make my motto, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow, you may be dead