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In a small coastal town in Victoria, 17 year old Emily (Victoria Thaine) is anxious to find out who was her father. Her single mum, Susan (Susie Porter), wants to keep the past closed off, and maintains he was a "tom cat"; a tourist who came through the town one summer and never returned. She hasn't spoken to her parents since she fell pregnant at fifteen and refused to name the father. Local boatman Stephen (Robert Mammone), however, is haunted by the past in the form of memories of his deceased wife and daughter. Carl (Philip Quast), the town policeman, is hiding the past (as well as some of the present) from his wife Elizabeth (Wendy Hughes), who has her suspicions, while their older son Joel (Khan Chittenden) has a secret affair with Emily, which has explosive connotations.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Crafted with impeccable care by all concerned, The Caterpillar Wish is arthouse cinema, full of visually striking interstitials - close ups of water and objects or elements that surround the characters. The film sets a mood and a pace that is drawn from the narrative about secrets of the past that collide with realities of the present. All of it is seen through the eyes of 17 year old Emily, and New Zealand drama In My Father's Den springs readily to mind (as does Somersault to a lesser extent). The link with the former is enhanced by the fact that the central character of Celia is played by an actress called Emily [Barclay], and photographs play a role in both films.

All three stories of female teenagers are dealing with the painful terrain of real life, but they all risk being diminished by plot elements that have been usurped by soapies and mass produced into clichés. They all succeed, but only partially, to shrug off this burden.

The Caterpillar Wish, despite its abundance of talented professional supporters throughout the Australian film industry, is perhaps least free of the problems that haunt such films. Yet Victoria Thaine is warm, naturalistic and vulnerable as Emily, and we certainly empathise with her. Susie Porter delivers a mature and complex characterisation, as does Robert Mammone, one of Australia's most under utilised and most gifted actors. What's missing is a sense of cohesion in both the casting choices and the script; there is room for more complex characterisations and for more sophisticated writing for Susie's parents, for Carl, and for Carl's wife, Elizabeth. There are holes in exposition (eg the expansive Carl/Elizabeth home suggests a story element is missing) and in story telling (eg why is the weak romantic subplot for Susan and Stephen so underdeveloped).

All of these weaknesses distance us from the film's obviously heartfelt scenario and from some of its characters, while we are wishing that it weren't so. Unsatisfying in too many areas, The Caterpillar Wish is itself at the caterpillar stage.

Special features on the DVD include an audio commentary by the director, behind the scenes featurette, 7 deleted scenes, trailers and photo gallery.

Published October 19, 2006

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(Aust, 2006)

CAST: Susie Porter, Victoria Thaine, Wendy Hughes, Robert Mammone, Philip Quast, Khan Chittenden, Elspeth Ballantyne, Bruce Myles, Nicholas Bell, Will Traeger

PRODUCER: Kate Whitbread

DIRECTOR: Sandra Sciberras

SCRIPT: Sandra Sciberras


EDITOR: Jason Ballantine

MUSIC: Burkhard Dallwitz


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes



PRESENTATION: widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director Audio Commentary; Behind The Scenes Featurette; 7 Deleted Scenes; Trailers and Photo Gallery

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: October 25, 2006

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