Little Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) lives in a chaotic, turbulent home with heroin addicts for parents. When her mother (Jennifer Tilly) dies of an overdose, her father, Noah (Jeff Bridges), takes her to her grandma's isolated house in the country. But grandma's dead, too, and Noah dies in the armchair - although Jeliza-Rose pretends he's still just asleep. Likewise, her imagination gives voice and life to her four Barbie dolls - at least their heads, since that's all that's left of them. When she meets her nearest neighbour, the black veiled, witch-like, one-eyed Dell (Janet McTeer), her world spins even further out of register. Dell's young, retarded and epileptic brother, Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), takes to Jeliza-Rose and the two become fast friends, escaping to their imaginations from a world whose reality is too ghastly.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
To rip the basic elements of the story into a brief synopsis & review distorts this rich, wildly imaginative work; it's very much a case of how, not what. The book no doubt makes for lively reading, populating the reader's mind with the shadowy images of its creations. To put them on film threatens their gossamer-like nature with the certainty and definition of cinematic reality. The danger is that these rich ingredients - the extremes of character and plot - overload the film version and make it little more than a freaky novelty.
To some extent, that's inevitable with a work that offers cadavers as major players, whose remains carry some of the plot. Or where a 10 year old girl not only communicates with her imaginary doll friends but with her dead father, too. The drawing together of Dell's past with Noah's lends the story an unexpected dimension, but this is a mere ripple in the much more complex and vibrant world of Jeliza-Rose. And it's Jodelle Ferland's absolutely remarkable performance that makes the film so compelling. She not only makes her character absolutely real, she does it with such untainted, unmannered naturalism that we forget she is playing a character.
Terry Gilliam has again stretched his craft to fashion a work of tragedy-tinged fantasy that uses the full range of dark movie making tools to great effect. Tideland begins as one thing and evolves before its abrupt and strange ending. More than a mere curiosity, the film nevertheless keeps the audience at a distance, except from Ferland's wonderful characterisation of a little girl whose imagination fills the terrible void that life has left her.
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CAST: Jodelle Ferland, Janet McTeer, Brendan Fletcher, Jennifer Tilly, Jeff Bridges, Dylan Taylor, Sally Crooks
VOICES: Jodelle Ferland, Wendy Anderson
PRODUCER: Gabriella Martinelli, Jeremy Thomas
DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam
SCRIPT: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni (novel by Mitch Cullin)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicola Pecorini
EDITOR: Lesley Walker
MUSIC: Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna, John Goodwin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jasna Stefanovic
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 26, 2007