A film that came and went unnoticed during its theatrical release and it did not cause much of a spark when it arrived on DVD either but here’s a chance to find out what you’re missing. Kate Winslet is Tilly, sent away when she was young, for the death of a young boy but finally returned to care for her ailing mother, to the chagrin and plentiful gossip of the whole town. Written and directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the novel by Rosalie Ham.
Winslet starts as she means to go on, making a definitive impression within the first couple scenes; strong, beautiful, chic and confident. You immediately have to talk about the costume work on this film, it is simply phenomenal, each and every outfit; not only Winslet but a whole host of the women starring in the film, it’s classic, grand and a sheer pleasure to behold. The choice of romantic interest was slightly jarring however, Liam Hemsworth in a role of supposedly similar age to Winslet pushes the believability quite strongly but it does not affect the overall film, it can be forgotten easily enough. Part of the reason for that is Winslet and Hemsworth’s chemistry and banter, it’s quick, sharp and funny which makes up for a slightly lacking romantic tension, although they do have their moments. Judy Davis as Tilly’s mother is another great source of comedy, a terror in her own right, refusing to listen to anyone or do what she’s told; a feisty character that’s highly enjoyable to watch and always bang on the moment with a perfect line. Then there’s Hugo Weaving as Sergeant Farrat, a cross-dressing police officer who goes crazy at the sight of a feather boa, it’s a flamboyant and unforgettable character, served undeniably well by Weaving, it is one of those performances that from that point on Weaving will always be Sergeant Farrat, no matter the role.
From the outset, the film may possibly and incorrectly look like a simple romance or a drama and it may encompass those things but it certainly is far from limited to them, it blends a variety of different elements and genres, it has a little of everything. Adding to the humour already mentioned, there’s the mystery of what really happened to the young boy, as well as the various little secrets that always plague small towns. The film also strays into darker moments but will also draw out a few tears, it’s brilliantly written and beautifully shot, complimented by the superb costume work by Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson. There’s nothing done by halves in this feature, each and every element gets its moment to shine and nothing is left unfinished.
The Dressmaker is a hidden treasure, the minimal reception it received is a crying shame for this absolutely wonderful film, it is endlessly entertaining and will make you laugh and cry, while creating a fascinating mystery. This is one that needs to be on your watch-list if you haven’t already seen it and if you have, it’s certain you’ll be watching it again.