Preview by: Jack Foley
A FESTIVAL favourite at Cannes, Sundance and Toronto in recent
years, Christine Jeffs' Rain finally gets a UK release on June
Based on Kirsty Gunn's acclaimed novel of the same name, the
film is set in the early 70s and focuses on 13-year-old Janey
(Fulford-Wierczbicki) and her family, as they settle into their
isolated cottage for another perfect seaside holiday in New Zealand.
While the children play on the beach, the parents drink, bicker
and host parties for other holiday-makers.
However, Janey has reached that awkward stage in her life; no
longer a child, but not quite an adult.
She spends her days teaching her little brother how to swim,
but, at the parties she sits on the sidelines observing and judging
the sexual tensions between the adults, in particular the flirtation
between her mother, Kate, and handsome photographer, Cady.
In turn, Kate is threatened by her daughter blossoming into maturity
and bored by her husbands contentment with life.
She responds to Cadys admiration and - never the most
domestic mother - turns away from her family to glow in her own
Janey challenges her mother for the attentions of Cady until
the struggle for control reaches a tragic denouement.
Described by American Vogue as a spectacularly sultry film
this is a beautiful, provocative reflection on childhood and the
transience of relationships, which helped Jeffs to earn a place
on Variety's Ten Directors to Watch list.
It is also boosted by John Toons cinematography, as well
as Neil Finns dark, atmospheric score, and is a powerful
entry into the over-populated coming-of-age genre.
According to the director herself: "I wanted to convey a
sense of the transience, in that relationships come and go, and
that the moment is precious.
"In Rain the audience goes on a journey with a young girl
who is exploring complex questions of power and control. Janey
makes some serious choices, which have very unexpected results."
The US response to the movie was largely positive, with many
hailing Jeffs as a director to watch.
The New York Post leads the way by observing that 'some
of the visual flourishes are a little too obvious, but restrained
and subtle storytelling, and fine performances make this delicate
coming-of-age tale a treat'.
Likewise the Los Angeles Times, which wrote that 'Jeffs
has created a breathtakingly assured and stylish work of spare
dialogue and acute expressiveness'.
The New York Times, meanwhile, felt that 'Jeff's gorgeous,
fluid compositions, underlined by Neil Finn and Edmund McWilliams's
melancholy music, are charged with metaphor, but rarely easy,
obvious or self-indulgent'.
And staying in the Big Apple, the New York Observer wrote
that 'it has more than a few moments that are insightful enough
to be fondly remembered in the endlessly challenging maze of moviegoing'.
The Philadelphia Inquirer stated, simply, that it is 'a
quiet, disquieting triumph'.
Less complimentary, however, were the likes of One Guy's Opinion,
which warned that, 'unless you enjoy watching repeated shots of
people waking up in an alcoholic stupor, you're likely to find
'Rain' a cinematic washout'.
And Village Voice opined that 'the dialogue is cumbersome,
the simpering soundtrack and editing more so'.
Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, wrote that it 'freights
a young girl's self-destructive eagerness to lose her virginity
with so much danger and even horror that it's as if the events
were trying to make up for the film's previous lack of drama'.
But they were largely in the minority, with the good word being
continued by the Hollywood Reporter, which wrote that it
is 'a master work in miniature, an unsentimental yet not unsympathetic
portrait of a family falling apart in slow motion'.
The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, noted that it is 'far
from the first female coming-of-age movie, but it's one of the
most vivid', while E! Online noted that 'Fulford-Wierzbicki
turns in an astutely assured performance as the Lolita-wannabe,
and director Christine Jeffs brings a poetic sensuality to the
The last word, however, goes to the Washington Post, which
concluded that, 'it is, like weather, what it is, neither good
nor bad but something that feels as if it has the weight of the