Film Review: The Turning 0 Comments

Film Review: The Turning

I didn’t know what to expect from The Turning, Robert Connolly’s film adaptation of the 2004 Tim Winton short story collection of the same name. This was partly because I hadn’t read any of the stories in the collection, and partly because of the lengthy three-hour running time of the film. Yet with a different director and cast of actors tackling each of the seventeen stories, The Turning made for a fresh and varied viewing experience.


One of my favourite shorts was the titular ‘The Turning’, directed by Claire McCarthy. Starring Rose Byrne as a young Bogan mother who befriends her born-again Christian neighbours, ‘The Turning’ deftly weaves humour and pathos, culminating in a vision of a muscle-bound Jesus walking on water. Other standouts were ‘Cockleshell’ (Tony Ayres), where religion takes on a darker form in the story of a teenaged boy’s love for his troubled Christian neighbour Agnes, and ‘Sand’ (Stephen Page), a looming, visually stunning story of the rivalry between two young brothers.


Characters recur throughout The Turning, though they are played by different actors and, consequently, are often not immediately recognisable. Likewise, the connections between the stories are somewhat foggy—presumably more so than they would be in the book. Although an overarching sense of connection may be lacking, landscapes (both natural and suburban) exercise a strange power over all the characters—isolating them and freeing them, offering them transcendence and taking them back to the past.


Many of the shorts have a distinctly literary feel to them, compounded by sparse dialogue, voiceover narration, or a fixation on small, descriptive details. Viewers’ patience for these devices will probably vary, depending on how many lingering shots of dust motes they can tolerate. As a writer of short fiction, I was really curious to see so many short stories being interpreted for film, so would recommend The Turning to anyone with an interest in the intersection between film and literature. Also, with a huge cast of Australian actors (among them Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Dan Wylie, and Miranda Otto) and variety of filmmaking styles, it will probably appeal to people with an interest in Australian cinema more generally.



Laura Elizabeth Woollett is a fiction editor at Voiceworks. She likes butterflies, lace, tarot cards and true crime. Find her here.

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