review by KJ Doughton, 12 April 2002

Rain is a tense coming-of-age film that forecasts inevitable tragedy with subtle acting and original images, filmed in an unforced way that makes it all seem natural, even when the script sometimes lets the film down.

Envision some quaint, family beach cabin tucked along the shoreline of a sun-drenched New Zealand bay.  Imagine that two vacationing parents and their pair of precocious children occupy the cozy abode. Does the setting churn forth Disney-esque visions of domestic bliss and unthreatening adventure? Not for the subjects of Rain, a tense coming-of-age film that forecasts inevitable tragedy with subtle acting and the original, unfamiliar images framed by first-time director Christine Jeffs.  Viewers taking in this cinematic tidal wave of household dysfunction will never again associate the sound of beach waves with calming sunsets and restful tanning.  

Casting its observant eye onto bored, quietly simmering Kate (Sarah Peirse) and her passive, bloated husband Ed (Alistair Browning), Rain makes it clear from the get-go that something’s rotten in this beachfront paradise of rustic cabins, tidy squares of backyard lawn, aluminum reclining chairs, and booze. Lots of booze. While Kate slices chunks of citrus and adds them to the plentiful alcoholic beverages on hand, red-faced Ed is already pleasantly toasted inside this unhealthy holiday house. Kate and Ed make an unhappy coupling, drowning their sorrows with rollicking, nightly parties and stints of community skinny-dipping in the nearby surf. 

None of this goes unnoticed by their two perceptive children. Too young to truly understand, tiny tot Jim (Aaron Murphy) treats the hedonistic festivities like water off a duck’s back, but the more perceptive Janey (Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki), a curious thirteen-year old, handles such irresponsibility with a rebelliousness that bodes for gray skies ahead.  Entering into a covert competition with Kate for the carnal affections of local bohemian, boat-building hunk Cady (Marton Csokas), she mirrors the jaded promiscuity of her mother, with disastrous consequences.  Meanwhile, Jim acts as an unknowing contrast to this growing doom, symbolizing the innocence that the family has long since turned its back on.

One can admire Rain’s refusal to cop out with a happy wrap-up, as Jeffs delivers a climactic blow to this damaged clan that remains true to the film’s “storm on the horizon” feel.  Still, the way in which this harsh denouement comes about seems contrived and unlikely. Without being a complete spoiler, I’ll reveal only that Rain is one of those films in which sexual awakening at the hands of an enigmatic beefcake is perceived as an inevitable rite of passage. It’s a tired cliché.  Still, the tragedy that cloaks the movie’s ending is symbolically sound, if not entirely believable.

Rain introduces a cast of game New Zealand actors to a global audience. Sarah Pierse plays Kate as an emotionally dead, passive aggressive woman who joylessly whiles away the hours engaged in prolonged, adulterous trysts. Such sexual frolics might not provide any true happiness, but they pass the time and provide her with proof that she’s still partially alive.  Browning convincingly portrays a once-engaging suitor whose indifference to anything void of alcohol transforms him into an ineffective paternal anchor steadily going to seed. However, Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki steals the show as Janey, emoting quiet spite as she takes in the silent betrayals around her and refuses to be ignored, even if it means plunging into this sleazy stew herself.     

Moody, heartbreaking, and filmed in a natural, unforced style that makes its characters seem entirely convincing even when its script is not, Rain casts a downbeat spell that’s not easily shaken.  Wash it down with a mocha chaser or a handful of antidepressants, and you’ll recover from its effectively despairing images fast enough to raise your spirits for the remainder of the evening.

Directed by:
Christine Jeffs

Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki
Sarah Peirse
Marton Csokas
Alistair Browning
Telma Hopkins
Aaron Murphy

Written by:
Kirsty Gunn
Christine Jeffs

R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult






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