This movie about the world of women in the Australian outback is thoroughly enjoyable. Kate Winslett is excellent as always; Judy Davis is hard to recognize but deft.
It is fun to watch a movie where the primary participants – good, bad, indifferent – are female. The story differs because there is less direct action; violence must be planned.
The movie begins with Kate arriving at a small, dried out hamlet, her hometown, where her mother, Davis, lives. Kate is a clothing designer and a seamstress; she designs, and her dresses make a difference for the women of the village.
Kate belabors under a cloud. When young, she was accused of killing the son of the village’s wealthiest man. The son had been bullying her. As plots play out, viewers learn that Kate and the son are brother and sister, and she did not kill him. However, Kate and the village believe she is cursed.
The past digressions give another designer inroads into hamlet fashion. Kate is out except for Davis and her beau, who wants to marry and take Kate and Davis away. She is unsure. Beau dives into a silo of sorghum to prove that no curse plagues her. He dies; the curse lives.
Davis plots. At a future joint entertainment in the next town the designer of the best costumes wins. Davis offers her daughter’s services to a competing hamlet, who pays. Davis dies. Kate makes the best costumes, but her personal revenge on the village and its despicable people comes last. While everyone is at the performance/contest and no one is in the hamlet, Kate sets fire to her mother’s house. It burns hot and wide – the village burns.
As residents arrive home to the burned wreckage, Kate has boarded a train and is on her way to “Paris:” If need be she will get out in Melbourne and make further travel arrangements.