In the still of the night, a daring damsel returns to the town that exiled her decades before. Dressed in silk that stuck to her in the wind, like a rumour to a small town. She wore a gaze as strong as Lady Macbeth’s. Whispering through red lined lips; “I’m back you bastards.”
It was clear that lead Kate Winslet, playing a sophisticated Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, was chasing those who did her wrong.
The Dressmaker is truly a rolling tale of revenge and reputation – heightened, in a 1950’s rural Australian setting. Where the dry gum trees kiss the endless skies and the rusty windmill stands on neighbourhood watch, overlooking the townsite, buried in red dirt and secrets.
There is a somber tone felt throughout the film. One with tragedy and heartache. The audience is begging for justice and answers, much like Tilly herself. An ostentatious dressmaker, or as the town folk like to label her, an amnesia struck, accused murderer. Gown by gown, Tilly stitches for the locals of Dungatar. Subsequently unstitching the truth about what really happened on the night of fellow classmate Stewart Pettyman’s death, 25 years ago.
The town’s heartthrob Teddy McSwiney played by one third of the Hemsworth brothers and Australian heartthrob, Liam, takes an immediate interest in Tilly. Their love story blossoms but is a rickety journey. A reminder to us all to love hard before it’s too late. Another prominent character is Tilly’s Mother (Judy Davis), who the Dungatar community call Mad Molly. She lives in a hot tin shed and appears to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Through Molly, we see tough love, forgiveness and the hardships associated with losing your memory.
The film is important because it shows the dangers of small town mentality. Where tradition meets expectations without room for change. Where growth is frowned upon and difference is belittled. The disparities segregating class becomes generational and it appears to be a tough cycle to crack.
The isolation of small towns can trap toxicity and be really devastating on a community. There is a reluctance to progress and townsfolk are often set in their ways. We see themes of domestic violence, alcoholism and little services for the elderly or children with special needs. There is little hope for any of the victims. Although set in the 1950s, these issues present as a glass mirror into some of the issues still suffocating our rural Australian communities today.
The Dressmaker is a story that will have you pinballing between laughter and tears, grasping for answers and for justice. There are more twists and turns than a game of snakes and ladders.
Perhaps the most devastating twist was with Teddy. It was an avalanche of heartbreak when he jumped down a silo, mistakenly landing in sorghum. He suffocated with Tilly left helpless. The snowball of death continued when Molly had an awful stroke in the middle of the dusty street. It was then that we believed that perhaps Tilly really was cursed. After all, how much can possibly go wrong in a town of 25? It shows us the relationship between love and time. Love while you have it, because it can be ripped from your arms at any point in time.
Have your tissues ready because they are scenes that will leave you a sobbing mess. Happy tears are not far around the corner however, and Tilly gets her sweet, well deserved and hard earned revenge. A tale of justice and vengeance that goes out with a bang. Literally.
Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse
Cast: Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis
Writer: Rosalie Ham