The Turning review

Short cuts, cut short…

Playing like an Antipodean Short Cuts, The Turning was a major cultural event when it was released in Australia in 2013. Adapted from a celebrated 2005 book of loosely interlocking short stories by Tim Winton, it saw 18 directors bring Winton’s writings to life across 180 minutes. So it’s a little deflating – if understandable – to see the UK get a truncated 106-minute version, with eight shorts removed.

Wisely, however, this version has retained the big names involved both in front of and behind the camera. Included here are works by Samson & Delilah’s Warwick Thornton (‘Big World’) and Snowtown’s Justin Kurzel (‘Boner McPharlin’s Moll’), alongside the directorial debuts of actors like David Wenham (‘Commission’) and Mia Wasikowska (‘Long, Clear View’).

Like most portmanteau movies, quality is variable, and it sways wildly between mysticism and melodrama, as Winton’s themes of landscape, coming-of-age and family are unpacked. Some, like Simon Stone’s ‘Reunion’ – written by Andrew Upton and starring Upton’s wife Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh – are quietly delightful. Others, like Claire McCarthy’s titular short, with a battered Rose Byrne, don’t quite nail it.

With each episode produced by its own individual creative team, the lack of continuity can disorientate. But it’s this daring mix of styles that gives The Turning its creative energy and distinct off-kilter flavour. And, thankfully, the full three-hour version will be available on DVD imminently; it may be worth waiting for that instead.

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