Movie Review: The Turning

Movie Review: The Turning

Tim Winton enjoys iconic status as an author in Australia. His specialty, developed over decades of writing, seems to be presenting us with the borders of suburban and country life that lead towards central spiritual experiences. So when eighteen leading filmmakers come together to turn a collection of his short stories into one cinematic experience, […]

By Mark HadleyWednesday 25 Sep 2013MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Tim Winton enjoys iconic status as an author in Australia. His specialty, developed over decades of writing, seems to be presenting us with the borders of suburban and country life that lead towards central spiritual experiences. So when eighteen leading filmmakers come together to turn a collection of his short stories into one cinematic experience, the result is as challenging as it is familiar. 

Tim Winto's short stories have been brought to life with 'The Turning'.

The Turning is based on the collection of short stories by the same name, published by Winton in 2005. It covers an immense amount of ground from high school escapism to the terrible betrayals that shape adult lives. Its filmmakers include well-known Australian names like Cate Blanchett, Mia Wasikowska and David Wenham, as well as stars Rose Byrne, Hugo Weaving and Miranda Otto. But that only scratches the surface. These luminaries are surrounded by equally bright but lesser known lights who demonstrate the diversity of talent available down under. 

Each of The Turning’s seventeen stories runs for a handful of minutes, introducing us to characters at every stage of life – aboriginal boys tipping over the edge of adolescence, teenage girls struggling with the title ‘damaged goods’, small town policemen burdened with bad choices, former football players wracked with guilt. What loosely unifies these and other stories is Winton’s fascination with moments of choice.

The Turning opens with an animation by Marieka Walsh, depicting the revels of a beach bonfire party, based on T.S. Elliot poem Ash Wednesday. Winton uses its verses to preface his collection, and Colin Friels’ reading of the opening stanzas sets the spiritual tone of the stories to come:

“Because I do not hope to turn again

Because I do not hope

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

Because I do not hope to turn

Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope

I no longer strive to strive towards such things…”

Ash Wednesday was written shortly after Elliot’s conversion to Anglicanism and describes the struggle that follows when someone who has lacked faith their entire life labours to move towards God. Though The Turning has as many perspectives on life as it has directors, there are several stories that clearly convey Winton’s insight into the Christian walk.

In the chapter the film takes its name from, we meet Raelene who lives in White Caps Caravan Park with her daughters and violent husband, Max. One day her humdrum life brings her into contact with a new way of living – Sherry and Dan, who seem to be able to face life without drinking. The pair are ‘born again’ Christians but they have no pretensions to holiness. They’ve come away from the city because drawing close to God means drawing back from the sin that’s been wrecking their lives. But the loss isn’t something they regret:

Raelene: “What was this born again business like? What did it feel like?”

Sherry: “It was like a hot knife going into me and I was butter – opening me up and there was hope and beauty where there was nothing before.”

The Turning is hard to watch at points because it provides honest insight into the pain that hides behind gleaming, double-brick and weatherboard exteriors. It has language, violence and sexual content which mirror that sadness. However it also has a good deal of hope in the possibility of change, and more than a few pictures that describe God’s role in the process. But even those that don’t at least accept this basic Christian understanding: there is no redemption without repentance, no going forward without first turning around.

 

Rating: M
Distributor: Madman

Release Date: September 26