Before watching, I read one review that suggested this movie might not be a comfortable fit for North American viewers. But I couldn’t resist the premise of love and revenge in 1950s rural Australia and the casting of Kate Winslet as protagonist Mildred (Tilly) Dunnage. So, I rented the DVD.
I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was entertained and fascinated by the eccentric characters, plot twists, budding romances, dark secrets, deaths, and haute couture in this excellent adaptation of Rosalie Ham’s debut novel.
The film opens with drop dead gorgeous Tilly stepping off a Greyhound bus, setting her Singer sewing machine on the ground and snarling, “I’m back, you bastards.” Within seconds, cross-dressing Sergeant Farrat (Hugh Weaving) approaches and asks, “Is that…Dior?” From there, Tilly continues to her family home where she intends to nurse her sick mother (Judy Davis), who lives in squalor at the top of the hill.
Barely tolerated by her mother and shunned by many of the townspeople, Tilly refuses to leave. Instead, she stays and uses her dressmaking skills to transform the frumpy women. But that is only part of a plan that slowly unravels as Tilly falls in love with a childhood friend (Liam Hemsworth) and then experiences personal tragedies.
More twists and turns and the ending is totally unexpected. Or perhaps not.