Christchurch, New Zealand, the mid-1950s. Two girls, Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) and Juliet (Kate Winslet) run terrified through the dense forest, the air streaked with their screams and their faces streaked with blood. They burst through the bushes and emerge to the concerned face of a passer-by with the words “It’s Mummy! She’s terribly hurt!”So begins Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, the true story of two schoolgirls whose problematic home lives forge a bridge between them, a bridge that leads to a fantasy world of princes and princesses, giant butterflies, murder, topiary and unicorns. But when their parents strive to separate the two, the girls hatch a plan to remain together by taking drastic actions.
A true story told via the diary entries of the young Pauline (Melanie Lynskey), Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures is one part coming-of-age story, as the introverted outsider Pauline meets and bonds with Kate Winslet’s rich but sickly Juliet, and part exploration on the journey that ends with possible mental disorder. The two girls give great performances in their first film roles (though Winslet shows the greater potential to go on to win an Oscar rather than a regular role on Two and a Half Men), as the girls become closer whilst their parents become increasingly more worried. The film moved slowly, with a sense that the central relationship will not end well for anyone involved, and some scenes seem contrived – the fourteen-year old girls spontaneously stripping to their underwear as they run through the wood – but maybe that’s just a New Zealand thing. The brutal ending is shocking and abrupt, in stark contrast with the lands of make-believe and daydreams the girls have previously been living in, and the imagery sticks with you for a long time.
Choose film 6/10