Ward-Lealand shines in Vermilion
Vermilion (M, 92mins) Directed by Dorthe Scheffmann Reviewed by James Croot ★★★1⁄2
From an opening moody rendition of Hunters and Collectors’ anthemic Throw Your Arms Around Me toa final study in conveying emotion via silence, this Kiwi drama is very much a showcase for one of our finest actors.
Jennifer Ward-Lealand (Desperate Remedies, TV’s Dirty Laundry) is outstanding as a woman coming to terms with significant changes in her life but, in truth, this engaging, if sometimes ethereal female-driven tale highlights just what depth of talent exists.
Afflicted, or perhaps rather inspired, by synesthesia for some time, celebrated composer Darcy (Ward-Leland) finally seeks medical attention when she notices that the colours and shapes she sees are changing.
But while she’s convinced it’s all part of her abnormal brain function, the doctor tells her it’s actually a problem in her temporal lobe.
An aggressive tumour has significantly advanced and Darcy’s options are now somewhat limited. In fact, any course of treatment is unlikely to even gain her ‘‘any useful time’’.
Although reluctant to share the news with her family or friends, they eventually wrinkle it out of her. And that’s when daughter Zoe (Emily Campbell) decides to tell her mother about her impending marriage to Frank (Guy Montgomery).
Putting their sometimes tempestuous relationship to one side, Darcy asks if she could make Zoe’s wedding dress, a request the nursing student agrees to – much to the surprise of her mates.
‘‘This can’t be a love letter to your mother,’’ one warns, as the new deadline-driven ceremony plans go into overdrive.
Vermilion marks Danish-born writer-director Dorthe Scheffmann’s feature debut, but she’s been part of the New Zealand film-making community since 1977’s Sleeping Dogs.
Her experience shows – the movie’s meditative mood is reflected in its unhurried scenes, realistic tensions and understated Don McGlashan score.
There’s also food and architectural porn to enjoy and the impressive cast includes Goretti Chadwick and the welcome return of Theresa Healey (Shortland Street) to a screen of any size.
While not everything works – an Irish accent occasionally goes awry, some dialogue delivery feels a little off – Vermilion is an absorbing drama illuminated by talent that deserves more moments in the spotlight like this.
Jennifer WardLeland heads a fantastic female cast.