Paul Middleditch`s Terra Nova is an interesting Australian film, but also a rather frustrating one. It begins as Ruth, Jeanette Cronin, a New Zealand woman, snatches her daughter, Tuesday, Eloise Etherington, from the home of her parents and takes the kid to Sydney, where they find a room in a strange boarding house called Terra Nova, which is in an undefined location, but somewhere near the beach. Terra Nova is run by Margie, Angela Punch McGregor, a middle-aged woman having a desultory relationship with one of her boarders, Simon, Paul Kelman. Meanwhile, teenage Dud, Trent Atkinson, helps Ruth babysit Tuesday. When Simon transfers his affections to Ruth, tensions mount... This is quite a strange film. Middleditch sets up an intriguing situation, and a menacing atmosphere, but doesn`t seem to know quite how to resolve things. The characters are all tormented in one way or another, and they don`t make especially interesting company, though there are solid performances all round, and Angela Punch McGregor certainly deserved her AFI Award nomination. Intimations of madness abound, there`s an intense sexuality to a couple of scenes, but in the end it`s all somehow frustrating rather than enlightening. Beautifully photographed, though.Margaret`s Comments:With Terra Nova writer/director Paul Middleditch draws us into an intriguing world that`s almost dreamlike. When Ruth arrives at the dark house on the hill it`s a moment full of foreboding that isn`t actually borne out by what follows. Because it`s in this house that Ruth undergoes enough of a transformation to give her the strength to cling onto what she knows is the only true thing in her life. What Middleditch doesn`t do is give us enough background information about any of his characters, and there are quite a few of them, for us the audience to have full appreciation of exactly where they`re at in life. Maybe a few more clues would have helped in accessing this interesting feature film debut. Nevertheless I always felt I had access to the emotion of the characters at each moment in the film, it`s just the context of that emotion that has deliberately been made elusive. I liked the look of this film, l liked the performances very much, especially Jeanette Cronin`s Ruth, Angela Punch Macgregor`s Margy and Paul Kelman`s Simon. This is quite a dour film experience but a worthwhile one.
1 hour 25 min