“Floodhouse” charts the sensual awakening of a teenage girl in the most fecund of physical and emotional environments. Beautifully photographed, acutely observed and marked by a dazzling lead performance by Victoria Thaine, Miro Bilbrough’s short feature is an auspicious calling card. Pic looks set for strong showings in new director showcases and quality tube slots.
Mara (Thaine) barely knows her hippie father Harry (Robert Menzies). Shunned by grandparents, she and younger sister Penny (Amber Lee Hughes) are shipped off to Harry’s remote shack in the bushland. Loner dad and displaced daughter take tentative steps toward bonding and establishing domestic routines when a visitor — handsome horse-rider Herringbone John (Brendan Cowell) –arrives from a settlement up north known as Paradise.
Mara’s contact with the brooding, charismatic stranger sets the scene for a perceptive and delicately handled portrait of a child-woman grappling with isolation, sexual awareness and the concepts of family and community as they apply in this anti-establishment neck of the woods.
Heady atmosphere is heightened by the appearance of Mara’s embittered and estranged mother Ava (Catherine McClements) — a self-proclaimed bohemian bombshell.
Bilbrough’s intimate script and precise visual approach reach deeply into characters portrayed by an excellent cast. Convincing as a teenager despite being in her 20s, Thaine emerges with top honors as an adolescent at once bewildered and intoxicated by her surroundings.
Menzies avoids stereotyping with a dignified portrait of a damaged man confronted by parental responsibility for the first time. In a role bordering on cliched, McClements invests her faded flower child with arresting venom and, ultimately, touching humility.
Kim Batterham’s gorgeous lensing of the leafy locale and Amanda Brown’s elegant score add finishing touches to a polished production.