Published Sep 01, 2001
"Rain" is an engaging coming of age story set in early 1970s New Zealand. Janey is 13 and and overflowing with confidence and budding sexuality. She and her family are spending the summer by the ocean where her adolescent troubles are only exacerbated by her parents' deteriorating marriage. Her mother's habits of drinking and flirting repulse her while her father seems unwilling or unable to do anything about it. When the ruggedly handsome photographer Cady enters the picture both Janey and her mother are attracted to him while her father stands by trying not to notice what is happening.
This is the first feature for Christine Jeffs who shows great promise as a director. The film is adapted from the book of the same name by Kristy Gunn and the story bears a resemblance to Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" with themes of post-60s hangover and the malaise that leads to familial breakdown. Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki is unnervingly spot on as Janey. She plays the role of the confident teenager who exudes sexuality with intensity. In one scene she manages to scare off one of the neighbours who is a few years older than her. He has a crush on her and comes into her bedroom during a party. She instructs him to lie on the floor and then plants a kiss on his mouth. He says "What do you want to do now?" And she replies "Do you know what do?" Speechless, he walks out of the room.
Sarah Peirse as her mother, Kate is also exceptional. She conveys a great deal of sexual tension with Cady and boredom with her soft around the middle husband, while simultaneously feeling guilt for her infidelity and her increasing distance from her daughter. Aaron Murphy plays Janey's little brother Jim who represents the only innocent one in the story. It's Janey's job to watch over him and teach him to swim while their parents do a lot of lounging around, drinking and having parties.
Jeffs randomly places slow motion sequences in many scene adding an almost dreamlike quality. She also spends time showing incidental details like the making of coffee, from the grinding of the beans to the finished cup. It's these touches that make the film unique and atmospheric. As the story moves toward its resolution, the tension between Janey and her mother is subtly increased as she confronts her about her infidelity and boldly asks her parents if they are planning to break up. And as Janey's attraction to Cady grows to the point where both he and her mother become aware of it, the level of audience discomfort becomes palpable. As the film spirals toward its tragically unavoidable conclusion, you may find yourself shifting uncomfortably in your seat.