The first thing that strikes you about South Solitary is its visual splendor. Gorgeous cinematography and unshowy period production and costume design effortlessly draw the audience into Meredith's (Miranda Otto) rather extraordinary predicament. It's 1927 and she's a woman of a certain age, romantically marooned by the impact of the Great War and now literally cast aside onto a craggy rock in the middle of the ocean. With only her cantankerous lighthouse keeper uncle (Barry Otto) and a cuddly lamb for company, the pair receives a frosty welcome from both the weather and the lighthouse's overlooked caretakers, including shell-shocked veteran Fleet (Marton Csokas).
South Solitary marks ten years between films for the Camera d'Or winning writer-director Shirley Barrett (Love Serenade). One has to wonder how much a decade of solitude played upon the mind of a filmmaker once lauded at Cannes, however, much like her plucky protagonist, Barrett's writing betrays no bitterness; instead reveling in a knowing humour that is beautifully embodied by Otto. Also, for a film steeped in metaphor and symbolism (lighthouses, beacons, ships passing in the night, to name a few), Barrett's light touch is to her credit, if only she had also thought to trim the film from its lengthy 120mins.
Audiences expecting a sweeping romantic drama between Meredith's bubbly spinster and Flint's tortured soul will be disappointed by Barrett's restraint. And yet what lurks behind the whirling winds and the stoic characters is a warm-hearted film that also happens to be as pretty as a picture.
Published on Concrete Playground
DVD release: 1 December 2010
Click HERE to read my interview with director Shirley Barrett
Click HERE to see the trailer