The Dressmaker (Cert 12)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Caroline Goodall, Shane Bourne, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, Sacha Horler.
At the tender age of 10, Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Kate Winslet) is implicated in the death of a schoolboy.
The girl is banished from her sleepy, close-knit (fictional) hometown of Dungatar and finds her calling as a seamstress in Paris under the tutelage of Balenciaga and legendary designer Madeleine Vionnet.
When her single mother Molly (Judy Davis) falls ill, Tilly returns to Dungatar laden with her trusty Singer sewing machine and a fierce desire to exact delicious revenge on the people, who labelled her a murderer.
Her return piques the interest of Sergeant Farrat (Hugo Weaving) and footballer Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth), whose family has been keeping an eye on Molly.
Tilly initially resists Teddy’s overtures but she gradually relents and allows him to help her piece together the truth about her formative years.
However, Tilly’s beautiful creations cannot mask the ugliness of the locals’ narrow minds.
Based on the bestseller by Rosalie Ham, The Dressmaker is a 1950s-set comedy drama threaded with lustrous strands of revenge, redemption and mother-daughter bonding.
Winslet isn’t stretched in the lead role but her accent is solid, while Hemsworth, 15 years her junior, is an attractive suitor.
The shifting relationship between Winslet and Davis’ senile matriarch gently tugs heartstrings and Weaving walks a tightrope between deadly serious and flamboyant as the policeman intent on opening old wounds.
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse populates the chorus of disapproving townsfolk with various caricatures and her use of monochrome flashbacks to Tilly’s childhood are jarring.