Film Review: Celeste
Director: Ben Hackworth
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Thomas Cocquerel, Nadine Garner, Odessa Young, Emm Wiseman
Running Time: 105
Australian Distributor: Curious Films
Directed by Brisbane-born director Ben Hackworth, the film follows Celeste (Radha Mitchell), a famed forty-something opera singer, as she prepares to make a comeback after a decade out of the limelight. Having pushed everyone away after the death of her husband ten years ago, Celeste uses the occasion to attempt reconciliation with her estranged step-son Jack (Thomas Cocquerel).
While Jack has mixed feelings towards Celeste, he also finds himself needing a place to lay low after owing money to the wrong people. Their resulting reconnection brings a host of longstanding issues bubbling to the surface.
Hackworth does a marvellous job capturing far north Queensland on film, with its tropical rainforest scenery providing some serenity to the otherwise constricting emotional elements of the film. Shot on location at Paronella Park, the site of an inspired castle estate that looks like it grew in with the rest of the rainforest flora, the film finds a perfect staging ground for its slow-paced familial melodrama.
What could have been a gripping character drama, the potential is largely squandered by the use of Celeste’s step-son Jack, who functions as the lynchpin of her story. Thomas Cocquerel is not terrible in the role, but Jack is the kind of character some people might dislike – a young hot-headed tradesman oozing with sexual charisma but with very little going for him in the way of redeemable qualities.
Celeste does have some issues with its script, as far as keeping the audience in the dark with some aspects. But it doesn’t completely hamper its ability to pack in some highly affecting emotional punches which, with Hackworth’s use of stunning visuals, make for some of the better artistic moments I’ve seen brought forth through the Queensland landscape.
Credit must be paid to the cast, however, particularly Mitchell and Cocquerel who, although playing largely unlikeable characters, deliver some credibility to their roles. Mitchell’s nuanced performance is restrained, soulful, contemplative. She is very good, as always, but the stagnancy of the storyline will test the audience’s patience, and nothing the star does rouses the film.
Celeste is an emotional mystery piece, with a couple of twists, all shot in a setting which steals the show. Overall, it falls short of hitting the right mark.
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