Celia starts out as a likeable family pic about the traumas of a sensitive 9-year-old girl growing up in a Melbourne suburb in the conservative late 1950s. It winds up as something quite different.
Celia, played by Rebecca Smart, is an only child; when she discovers her grandmother’s body, it’s the first of several traumas. Troubled by nightmares featuring monsters from a book read to her at school, Celia is delighted when newcomers, with three children, come to live next door; and finds Alice (Victoria Longley) far more sympathetic than her own mother.
Trouble is, Alice and her husband are active members of the Communist Party, and before long Celia is forbidden to see her new friends.
The child’s other obsession is her pet rabbit. When a national plague of rabbits results in the Victoria state government calling for the handing over of all domestic bunnies, she blames her uncle, the local policeman, for enforcing the law, and when her beloved rabbit dies in Melbourne Zoo, she takes a surprisingly violent revenge.
Smart, on-screen throughout, is effective as the ultimately scary Celia, but the film’s best performance comes from Victoria Longley as the warm-hearted neighbor.