×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Martha’s New Coat

A lonely and troubled 15-year-old sets off on a frustrating quest to find the father who abandoned her years earlier in "Martha's New Coat," an accomplished medium-length film in which actress-turned-director Rachel Ward enters Ken Loach territory with considerable success.

With:
Martha - Matilda Brown Elsie - Alycia Debnam-Carey Sarah - Lisa Hensley Frank - Daniel Wyllie Tanya - Helen O'Leary Janine - Amy Miller-Porter Gina - Tennelle Wheatley

A lonely and troubled 15-year-old sets off on a frustrating quest to find the father who abandoned her years earlier in “Martha’s New Coat,” an accomplished medium-length film in which actress-turned-director Rachel Ward enters Ken Loach territory with considerable success. Primarily intended for TV, and part of an Australian Film Commission initiative to encourage the production of several 50-minute dramatic films from emerging talents, pic is good enough to find festival bookings and to enjoy a long and healthy ancillary life.

Ward, who brought a luminous presence to films like “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” (1982), “Against All Odds” (1984) and “After Dark My Sweet” (1990), recently appeared with husband Bryan Brown in the TV miniseries of “On the Beach” after a long absence from the small screen. The couple’s daughter, Matilda Brown, plays the title role in “Martha,” and creates a wholly believable character, that of an unhappy, moody teenager who yearns for the kind of family life that will always elude her. Brown seems set for a successful acting career on the strength of this intelligent performance.

Martha lives in a small town with her sluttish mother, Sarah (Lisa Hensley), who is pregnant by her new lover, Frank (Daniel Wyllie), and her little sister, Elsie (Alycia Debnam. A pale beauty with jet black hair and an eyebrow ring, Martha is a surly loner who rejects the attentions of boys. The town is devoid of entertainment for young people.

Still, Martha’s looking forward to her birthday treat — a trip to the seaside. But on the morning in question, Sarah is too hungover and drugged with pills to travel, so Martha makes a snap decision to steal some of Frank’s money and take Elsie with her on the bus to the beach. She then decides to go in search of her father, not realizing he has a new life and will not bekeen to see her.

The screenplay, by Elizabeth J. Mars, captures the attitudes, speech patterns and concerns of contempo youth; the film has no hint of artifice. The bleak story is leavened with humor, however, and Ward concludes the too-brief drama with an unspoken scene of great sensitivity that allows a measure of hope for the future.

Country and Western songs (Martha’s favorite) fill the soundtrack of a film handsomely but economically shot on location by Cordelia Beresford; camerawork is hand held, but not annoyingly so.

Debnam-Carey is an appealing child actor who inhabits her role with complete conviction, but the success of the film rests on the remarkable Brown’s young shoulders. Her mother’s direction (which follows her success with last year’s award-winning short film, “The Big House”) is intelligent and assured. Title refers to a birthday present given to the eponymous heroine by members of her peer group.

Martha's New Coat

Australia

Production: An Australian Film Commission-SBS Independent presentation, in association with the NSW Film and TV Office of a New Town Film-Porchlight Films production. Produced by Liz Watts. Executive producer, Bryan Brown. Directed by Rachel Ward. Screenplay, Elizabeth J. Mars.

Crew: Camera (Atlab color), Cordelia Beresford; editor, Mark Perry; music, Karen Leimbach; production designer, Sally Campbell; costume designer, Helen Mather; sound, Paul Finlay, Phil Winters; assistant director, Jamie Crooks; casting, Faith Martin. Reviewed at Melbourne Film Festival, July 27, 2003. (Also in Sydney and Brisbane film festivals.) Running time: 52 MIN.

With: Martha - Matilda Brown Elsie - Alycia Debnam-Carey Sarah - Lisa Hensley Frank - Daniel Wyllie Tanya - Helen O'Leary Janine - Amy Miller-Porter Gina - Tennelle WheatleyWith: Tim McCunn, Adrian Auld, Sally Wilson, Renee Towler, Briony Williams, Nathan Broderick.

More Film

  • Svensk Filmindustri SF Studios logo

    Warner Bros, SF Studios Expand Distribution Deal Across Scandinavia

    Warner Bros. Pictures has expanded its distribution deal with SF Studios to include Sweden and have their movies released by the Nordic major through all of Scandinavia. Warner Bros. Pictures already has a distribution pact with SF Studios in Denmark, Norway and Finland. Under the partnership, SF Studios has been handling the sales, marketing and [...]

  • Nicole Kidman Meryl Streep

    Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman to Star in Ryan Murphy's 'The Prom' at Netflix

    Ryan Murphy enlisted a star-studded cast for his upcoming Netflix movie “The Prom,” an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Awkwafina, James Corden, Ariana Grande, Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells are among the A-listers bringing “The Prom” to screens. “The Prom” follows a lesbian student in the fictional conservative town of [...]

  • Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Vaclav

    Viktor Dvorak, Anna Geislerova Join Václav Havel Biopic

    Viktor Dvorak has been cast in “Havel,” a biopic of Václav Havel, as the Czech playwright, dissident and national leader. Anna Geislerova, who starred in Oscar nominated “Zelary,” plays his wife, Olga Havlova. Jiri Bartoska, the president of Karlovy Vary Film Festival, will appear in the film as “Professor,” inspired by Czech philosopher Jan Patocka. [...]

  • Daniel Craig

    'Bond 25' First Footage Sees Daniel Craig Back as 007

    After suffering a series of setbacks, including finding a new director and Daniel Craig’s on-set injury, “Bond 25” production is officially underway. A new behind-the-scenes clip of the upcoming James Bond film features Craig and helmer Cary Joji Fukunaga at work in the Caribbean. The minute-long footage didn’t reveal much about the still-untitled movie, though [...]

  • (L to R) Marco Graf as

    ‘Roma,’ ‘The Good Girls’ Top Mexico’s Ariel Academy Awards

    The Mexican Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences hosted the 61st edition of their Ariel Awards on Monday evening, where Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” and Alejandra Márquez Abella’s “The Good Girls” stood out among the winners. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cuarón’s “Roma” scooping best picture is that it’s only the second of his films to [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Already Pulled From Shanghai Festival, 'The Eight Hundred' Cancels Its China Release

    Already pulled from its prestigious spot as the opener of the Shanghai International Film Festival, war epic “The Eight Hundred” has been dealt a further below with the cancellation of its scheduled release in China next week. In a terse announcement on its official Weibo account, the film said late Tuesday that, “after consultation between [...]

  • Méndez Esparza, Fernando Franco, Villaronga Projects

    Projects By Mendez Esparza, Fernando Franco and Villaronga at Small Is Biutiful

    Antonio Méndez Esparza’s “Que nadie duerma,” Fernando Franco’s “La consagración de la primavera” and Agustí Villaronga’s “3.000 obstáculos” figure among the seven projects to be pitched at Paris’ Small Is Biutiful forum. The closing event for the alternative Spanish film festival Dífferent 12!, Small Is Biutiful takes place June 26, bringing together French distributors and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content