Urban Cinefile
"My father had grown up without shoes. So when I started talking about being an actor, my dad said Look son, I don't want you to talk about it. People like us don't do things like that."  -Terence Stamp
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Saturday February 1, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Ruth (Jeanette Cronin) suffers a mental illness, which has led to her being separated from her daughter Tuesday (Eloise Etherington). Ruth kidnaps the child from her parents' home in New Zealand and flees to Australia. Here she finds lodgings at Terra Nova, a boarding house run by Margie (Angela Punch-McGregor); whose residents are people on the edge of society in one way or another. She finds a degree of protection in Simon (Paul Kelman) and his brother Dud (Trent Atkinson). But Ruth's illness, and her parents, are catching up with her; and her relationship with Simon is taking dangerous turns.

"There's a lot to appreciate in Terra Nova, namely Steve Arnold's cinematic skills and Angela Punch McGregor's outstanding performance. And the film certainly creates a mood. But sadly the work stops short of anything more due to the introverted nature of the screenplay, which fails to produce tangible characters as a whole. The central character of Ruth never becomes real, and while aspects of her past life are made apparent from flash backs, these are less than convincing and engaging. We don't feel very much for Ruth, and that is the main problem. We feel far more for Margie (Angela Punch McGregor is riveting), while Paul Kelman is convincing as Simon. The pace is slow, the rewards limited, yet here is an interesting Australian work, that showcases some excellent work. See it, if only for Punch McGregor's poignant and memorable performance."
Louise Keller

"There's something a little disconcerting about director Paul Middleditch's approach to this film. The story is embellished with a variety of cinematic techniques - exaggerated sound effects, slow-mo, flashbacks. Now in some hands (think Keislowski), these embellishments can enrich a film in many ways. Here however they tend to distract. The need for these "tricks" had me wondering about the script - and ultimately, that's where Terra Nova falls down. The story moves at a rather languid pace, but when it finally does go somewhere, it's not very interesting or engaging. The film's "surprises" are telegraphed well in advance, and the characters are largely unlikeable, making it difficult to care about their plight. Indeed, the theme of coming to terms with mental illness was handled far more effectively in Angel Baby. Terra Nova does however boast some impressive performances. Jeanette Cronin is convincing as Ruth, and Paul Kelman (best known from TV) shows real promise as a feature film actor in the difficult role of the sometimes brutal Simon. Trent Atkinson is also fine as the sensitive Dud. The cinematography by Steve Arnold is atmospheric, giving the film a rather surreal quality; and Middleditch displays flair in bringing the tale to the screen. As a first feature, Terra Nova marks him as a director to watch in the future. It's a pity the cast and crew didn't have something more substantial to work with from the script. Terra Nova may be a stepping stone for some new talents in Australian cinema. But as a film in its own right, it misses the mark."
David Edwards

"Yes indeed, have to agree with both Louise and David; excellent work from Angela Punch McGregor and the rest of the cast as well as fine camerawork by Steve Arnold, but the script could have done with more work to bring out the bite inherent in it. In terms of creating mood and sense of place, Middleditch shows excellent natural talent, and the film should help get him a stronger project in the future."
Andrew L. Urban

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with


CAST: Angela Punch McGregor, Jeanette Cronin, Trent Atkinson, Paul Kelman, Teo Gebert, Ritchie Singer

DIRECTOR: Paul Middleditch

PRODUCER: Peter Masterton

SCRIPT: Paul Middleditch


EDITOR: Heidi Kenessey

MUSIC: Graham Tardiff

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Catherine Mansill

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 24, 1999 - Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney. Other states to follow.

AWARDS: Best of the Fest, Edinburgh, 1998; Best International First feature, Montreal Film festival; best Cinematography (Steve Arnold) Australian Cinematographers’ Society; Nominee, Best Supporting Actress, Angela Punch McGregor

VIDEO RELEASE: November 24, 1999


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020