One of filmdom’s recurring themes is facing the death of a parent, taking stock, settling the hidden resentments, the family secrets, the unspoken transgressions, forgiveness and letting go. The family in Rachel Ward’s (Directorial debut) Beautiful Kate is one of those films. When a writer is called back home by his sister to say goodbye to the father he hasn’t seen in twenty years, the story unfolds in reveries of flashbacks as we learn the fate of his other sister (“Beautiful Kate”) and his brother. And there are a lot of secrets to unlock. Kate is played by Sophie Lowe, who will be appearing in an ABC miniseries that is wrapping of Tsiolkas’ The Slap.
I’ve seen too many of these films and usually shy away from them. They’re sadly depressing and nothing much is ever new with this genre. But I’m an actor guy, and there were good reports about this one. Ben Mendelsohn follows up his role in the great Animal Kingdom with his role here as the prodigally returning writer. He’s got a woman (Maeve Dermody) half his age on his arm and immediately he and his father start rubbing each other the wrong way. His father is played by the veteran Australian actor Bryan Brown, a stone hearted man whose life seems to have stalled in a bad place with the death of his wife many years earlier.
It’s a surprisingly competent debut for Ward. I just wish she had chosen something other to kick off with.