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The Turning

* * * - -

A well-acted, but muddled and overlong adaptation of Tim Winton’s short story collection that will appeal to those who delight in analysing and discussing cinema.

Image of The Turning

Available on DVD from Mon 06 Apr 2015

Robert Connolly / Australia / 2013 / 172 mins

‘I saw things. Well, I don’t know. I half saw things, things I didn’t really understand at the time. I don’t even really understand them now.’ And thus sums up The Turning as best as possible. It’s difficult to categorise, at times unengaging to watch and most definitely a movie that you won’t forget in a hurry.

Dealing with eighteen stories from several Australian filmmakers (each based on a short story by author Tim Winton), the piece is linked thematically across a punishing three hour running time, the impact relationships have on our lives being the focus here. It’s bold, occasionally beautiful and nothing if not inconsistent.

Each chapter is signposted with a title card, one of many instances where the film forgets that literary adaptations do not need to be taken… well, literally. We are being asked to think of this as a grand statement, but bombarded stupendously with evidence on the contrary. Images conjured on the page are taken at face value and every now and then the film falls into unintentional humorous pitfalls as a result – none more so than Rose Byrne (playing fantastically against-type) embracing Jesus himself.

That is not to say that there aren’t things to enjoy here – Byrne, Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving all steal the show in each of their moments, as do the majority of the leading cast – and the stories which understand and appreciate the subtlety of their subject matter are the most rewarding.

It’d be too easy to simply list off which sections impress and which ones do not – however, that’s exactly the discussion people will have after finishing and that is where The Turning will find its biggest audience: the people who don’t mind being frustrated in order to reach a diamond in the rough. In that regard, maybe it’s actually a masterpiece? A flawed one, yes, but one that’ll keep you coming back for more regardless. It’s a movie made to be studied; in fact, it’s probably the best film studies class you’ll see all year. Those to whom such statements appeal? Well, you know exactly who you are.