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The Dressmaker - Film Review

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by Kristel Rennai (subscribe)
Kristel Rennai is a passionate, spirited freelance writer with endless wanderlust and a social conscience who laughs loudly and often inappropriately. Lead singer of Adelaide band, The Vibes
Published November 10th 2015
Twists, turns and 'deadly' fashion
If you have heard of the film, The Dressmaker and written it off as a flouncy, la-di-da flick about a lady making pretty dresses, think again.

The Dressmaker, movie, Kate Winslet, Australia, cinema, drama, comedy
The Dressmaker official movie poster Image Credit: Official Theatrical Release - Wikipedia

Dramatic, romantic, mysterious, funny and epitomising enthralling, stylised storytelling are all ways to describe the film, which really is worthy of being spared from genre pigeon-holing.

The Dressmaker is based on the first published novel of the same name by Australian author Rosalie Ham and adapted for screen by Jocelyn Moorhouse who also directed the film which had to be pushed back a year to accommodate Winslet's pregnancy.

The film is set in early 1950's Australia and centres around the return of dressmaker/designer Tilly Dunnage, (played by Kate Winslet with an exceptional Australian accent), to her unwelcoming small country hometown of Dungatar.
After being sent away as a child among mysterious circumstances, Tilly worked in the Parisian fashion houses and honed her craft of designing couture gowns.

Tilly's arrival, Singer sewing machine in tote, causes a great stir among the eccentric and sordid townsfolk and none are too thrilled to have her back with the exception of the 'fabulous' police officer Sergeant Farratt (Hugo Weaving) with a kind heart and a penchant for exotic fabrics, and an old school mate, the affable Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth).

Dressmaker, Australian Film, Movie, Kate Winslet
Tilly creating fashion magic - Image Credit:

As Tilly attempts to mend her relationship with her estranged mother Mad (or maybe not so mad) Molly (played by the hilarious, show-stealing, Judy Davis), and unravel the dark mysteries of the past, the women folk of Dungatar undergo a jaw-dropping fashion transformation thanks to her couture designs.

The rest of the film clicks on at the perfect speed and follows Tilly as she falls in love, suffers loss and fights to uncover the truth about her dark, possibly murderous past, before getting even with all the people who have wronged her in spectacular fashion.

The Dressmaker is a visual feast and the contrast between the stunning gowns (designed by Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson) and the Australian scrub is breathtaking.

Couture, Dressmaker, Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Sarah Snook, Australia, film, fashion, gowns
The ladies of The Dressmaker Image Credit:

The film is a credit to Moorhouse (who also produced the iconic Australian film Muriel's Wedding in 1994), and to the wonderful supporting cast which reads like a who's who of Australian film and television actors including Rebecca Gibney, Shane Bourne, Sarah Snook, Gyton Grantley, Barry Otto and Shane Jacobson, along with the aforementioned stars of the film.

I will warn that The Dressmaker may not be to everyone's taste. My boyfriend and I were amused by the grumbling reviews of a few of the elderly viewers who left the cinema in front of us and couldn't quite get their heads around it.

If however, you enjoy Australian film, strong characters, humour and a good yarn full of twists and turns, I suspect you might just love The Dressmaker as much as I did.

Check out the official movie website here: The Dressmaker Movie
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Your Comment
Great review of a wonderful film. I was going to write a review myself, however I see there are two other reviews as well as yours. I loved the movie. I laughed and cried.
by CassandraJoy (score: 3|1021) 1720 days ago
My friends and I really enjoyed this film. We are almost elderly and i think the elderly people mentioned in the review may have disliked the idea that everyone .[almost] living in the small country town was SO obnoxious that they deserved to die a horrible death. We loved the acting,clothes and filming.
by junea (score: 1|86) 1734 days ago
I'm 65, my daughter is 30 and we both loved this quirky Aussie movie. Hats off to Kate Winslett's fabulous Aussie accent and thanks to her voice coach for not teaching her a whiney striney accent.
The cast of Aussie who's who's were something to make Australia proud. Highly recommend this movie.
by shary (score: 0|7) 1727 days ago
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