After staying away for 20 years, Ned (Mendelsohn) drives his young financee (Dermody) into the middle of nowhere to meet his family. She's clearly out of place in such a rural environment, and being reunited with his younger sister (Griffiths) and wheezy dad (Brown) isn't exactly comfortable for Ned, as skeletons come tumbling from the closet. As a boy (Gill then O'Donnell in flashback), he was unnaturally close to his twin sister Kate (Burner then Lowe), whose early death is also entangled with the death of his older brother (Binks then McFarlane).
Yes, this is a fairly heavy and bleak story, but actress-turned-filmmaker Ward gives it a raw beauty that keeps us gripped, darting back and forth in time to fill in key details as Ned dredges ever deeper into his memory. Ward shoots and edits the flashback scenes with particular skill, really getting into the mind of this confused boy as his closeness to Kate takes an inappropriate turn. And the moods and attitudes are razor sharp.
Meanwhile, the cast members create vivid characters that are utterly consistent even with two or three actors in various eras of each role. All of them have a haunted quality that draws us in, although as the story gets increasingly intense our ability to identify with the characters diminishes. As Kate, Lowe haunts the film beautifully, rather like she haunts everyone's memories.
Continue reading: Beautiful Kate Review
Starlet Karina Lombard was one of those shot-in-the-dark/outta-nowhere actresses (today's example: Kill Bill's Chiaki Kuriyama) who made a splash in a tiny role (she was the island girl who seduced Tom Cruise in The Firm) and subsequently bit off more than she could chew in a lead role. But since Lombard has no discernable acting ability, it's almost painful to watch her try to pull off this romance. Playing a Jamaican landowner in the 1840s, she marries an import Englishman named Rochester (Nathaniel Parker) in order to maintain her status. Too bad her family's a wreck, with a crazy mother locked up in the house. Nevertheless, there's plenty of time for lots of sex -- which originally earned Sargasso an R but got it re-rated as an NC-17 for it's minutely more graphic home video release (which is one minute longer than the R version).
Continue reading: Wide Sargasso Sea Review