Ward-Lealand shines in Ver­mil­ion

The Dominion Post - - Entertainment -

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.

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