Radha Mitchell was always a Neighbours alumnus destined for bigger things, and following her stint on Ramsay Street she’s been one of its more notable ex-members. Like Guy Pearce, she has carved out a career in both high-brow and low-rent fare, and this 2003 curio from her native Australia has now been reissued on DVD by the redoubtable Umbrella Entertainment.
Ostensibly it’s the story of a young woman suffering cabin fever, having been becalmed while attempting to sail single-handed around the world, but although it sells itself on the horror of her hallucinations, most viewers looking for something to send chills down the spine will probably end up disappointed. Rather, this is more of a psychological thriller, the demons being exorcised those internal ones that Georgia Perry has been suffering since accidentally causing the incident that cost her father his legs during her childhood.
It’s a tale of two halves, much of the opening section painting in Perry’s background through flashback during the early part of her involuntary intermission. It’s an effective way to fill in the audience without labouring the exposition, although things do pick up in the latter portions which focus on her illusory visitations and what they have to say about her state of mind. Part of which is down to her relationship with Luke (Purcell), with whom she conducts regular radio conversations that end up contributing no end to the cycle of visions that beset her. But mostly Perry’s mindset is informed by her decision to embark upon the voyage at a time when she’s at risk of losing both of her parents while she’s at sea.
This isn’t a whole lot of fun, the only comedy coming from Perry’s regular conversations with her onboard cat which are as reminiscent of Doug Liman’s Go as they are of Alien or Wilson the volleyball from Cast Away. However the acting is terrific, not least from Susannah York as Perry’s suicidal mother and Ray Barrett as her much more easy-going father, and Mitchell herself holds the centre of the film quite comfortably, never giving in to the temptation to indulge in the kind of acting pyrotechnics that might have rendered this hysterical.
Visitors was written by Everett De Roche, and while it’s a lesser credit than some of his better-remembered productions, it’s easy to see the influences that created Road Games and Long Weekend behind it. It’s also the final directorial credit for Road Games’ Richard Franklin, who lends it an air of uncluttered classiness that befits a film that dwells far more on the games a mind can play than it does over-embellishing the manifestation of those fantasies. Not the most striking or memorable film, but effective nonetheless.
Extras: trailer, photo galleries, biographies
VISITORS (2003) / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: RICHARD FRANKLIN / SCREENPLAY: EVERETT De ROCHE / STARRING: RADHA MITCHELL, SUSANNAH YORK, RAY BARRETT, DOMINIC PURCELL, TOTTIE GOLDSMITH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (AUSTRALIA)