Somersault (film)

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Somersault movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Cate Shortland
Written byCate Shortland
Produced by Anthony Anderson
CinematographyRobert Humphreys
Edited byScott Gray
Music by Decoder Ring
Red Carpet Productions
Distributed by Hopscotch Films
Release date
  • 17 May 2004 (2004-05-17)(Cannes)
  • 16 September 2004 (2004-09-16)(Australia)
Running time
106 minutes
Budget A$4 million [1]
Box officeA$2.1 million [2]

Somersault is a 2004 Australian romantic drama film written and directed by Cate Shortland (in her feature directorial debut). Shot in the winter of 2003, it was released in 16 September 2004 and screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. [3] It also swept the field at the 2004 Australian Film Institute Awards, winning every single feature film award (13 in total).


Exploring the themes of human sexuality, alienation and emotion, Somersault is about a 16-year-old girl named Heidi (Cornish) who flees her Canberra home to the mountain town of Jindabyne in New South Wales. There she meets Joe (Worthington), the son of a local farmer, and gradually forms a relationship with him, despite his difficulty in expressing his feelings. He also seems to be unsure of his sexual orientation, despite having better-than-average luck meeting women.

The soundtrack is written and performed by Australian band Decoder Ring. Some scenes were shot at the Ryrie homestead at Michelago, New South Wales.


Heidi, a pretty teenager living in the Canberra suburbs, flees home after her mother, Nicole, finds her trying to seduce Nicole's boyfriend. She takes a bus to a ski resort in the Snowy River National Park where a man lives who once gave her his business card and invited her to contact him if she was ever in town. However, when she phones him, his wife answers the phone and he says that he does not remember her. She meets some other teenagers at a club and goes home with them. In the morning, the boy she slept with tells her he is going back to Sydney and, when she asks if she can go with him, one of his friends says he already has a girlfriend. She tries flirtation to get a job in a ski equipment shop and to talk to a man in a parked car who was eyeing her, but without success.

In a bar, a young man called Joe who saw her in the club the previous night buys her a drink and strikes up a conversation. Without anywhere to sleep, she asks to go with him and he takes her to a motel but leaves quickly for work in the morning without suggesting further contact. She strikes up a friendship with Irene, the woman who runs the motel and gives her breakfast. She asks vainly for a job but, after Heidi says that her mother is dead, Irene allows her to stay in the room and pay the following day. Irene warns her that the resort is now out of season and there are no jobs available. Heidi calls Joe at his parents' farm but he doen't return her calls. Irene, knowing she doesn't have the money for the room, puts her in her son's flat, though she still wants rent in due course. In order to pay for it, Heidi needs a job, and is hired at a petrol station. Joe sees her by accident and they go for a drink and back to her flat. Her co-worker is Bianca and they become friends after Bianca's mother offers her a lift home, where Joe is waiting.

One night, Joe and Heidi encounter some of his friends, who mock her for working in a petrol station. When Joe and Heidi go to a Chinese restaurant, she asks him if he loves her and, when he refuses to make any commitment or even discuss it, swallows a small bowl of chilli. He drags her to the bathroom to sick it up and takes her back to the motel. He then visits a gay neighbour, Richard, and after saying how much he is obsessed by Heidi and drinking a lot of whisky, tries to seduce him. Richard says he doesn't know what he wants. At home, his father ignores his emotional distress.

Heidi, upset by being rejected and neglected by Joe and by being been forced out of her job by gossip, goes to the night club and gets drunk. Two young men pick her up and go home with her and they smoke cannabis. Though she is barely conscious, they kiss and undress her, at which point Joe comes in and beats up one of them who is insolent. After they leave, he condemns her promiscuity and she accuses him of not caring for her, which he does not deny and drives off, despite her following him out to his car naked and begging him to stay.

The next morning, Irene tells Heidi that, after the scene the night before, she is no longer welcome to stay. Heidi forces Irene to admit that her son is in prison for murder and confesses that her mother was not dead after all and she had to leave. Irene asks Heidi to call her mother and make amends. The film ends as Heidi's mother comes to pick her up, embracing her, and Joe comes to say goodbye.



Somersault grossed $2,158,574 at the box office in Australia and was well received by critics. [4] The critical review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 83% favorable rating, counted from 64 reviews with 53 "Fresh" and 11 "Rotten", and summarised it as "A poignant coming-of-age tale marked by a breakout lead performance from Abbie Cornish and a successful directorial debut from Cate Shortland. [5] On Metacritic, the film has a total score of 73 based on 21 positive reviews, indicating critical praise. [6]

Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton of At the Movies both praised the film, giving it 4 stars. In her review, Pomeranz wrote "There's no doubting Cate Shortland's talent. Her vision for this film is delicate and wrenching, tentatively optimistic. I have images from the film that haunt me still, Heidi’s hands – that ultimate connecting point of us all, her vulnerable body wrapped up against the cold in her pale blue parka, the landscape of that world at the bottom of the mountains". [7] She gave additional praise to the performances of the cast.

Fenella Kernebone for SBS noted "Somersault is a real labour of love for Cate Shortland and every element in the film is carefully considered." Kernebone awarded the film four stars out of five. [8] Somersault premiered at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened apart of the Un Certain Regard and was the only Australian feature film at the festival that year. [7]


In the 2004 AFI Awards held on 29 October at Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Somersault made history by winning a record 13 awards, out of its 15 nominations. The film won the following awards: Best Film (awarded to producers Anthony Anderson and Jan Chapman); Best Direction (Cate Shortland); Best Original Screenplay (Cate Shortland); Best Actress in a Leading Role (Abbie Cornish); Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sam Worthington); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lynette Curran); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Erik Thomson); Best Editing (Scott Gray); Best Cinematography (Robert Humphreys, A.C.S.); Best Sound (Mark Blackwell, Peter Smith and Sam Petty); Best Original Music Score (Decoder Ring); Best Production Design (Melinda Doring); Best Costume Design (Emily Seresin).

Somersault was also a big winner at the 2004 Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA) Annual Awards where it picked up five awards: Best Film; Best Director (Cate Shortland); Best Actress (Abbie Cornish); Best Cinematography (Robert Humphreys); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Lynette Curran).

The film also dominated the publicly voted Lexus IF Awards, taking out six of its eight nominations. It won awards in the following categories: Best Director (Cate Shortland), Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Script, Best Feature Film and Best Actress for Abbie Cornish.

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  1. "Hopscotch Presents Somersault". Cinematic Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  2. "Somersault". Movie Marshal. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  3. "Festival de Cannes: Somersault". Retrieved 3 December 2009.
  4. Film Victoria – Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
  5. "Somersault (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  6. "Somersault Reviews – Metacritic". Metacritic . Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  7. 1 2 "At the Movies: Somersault". 9 September 2004. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  8. Kernebone, Fenella. "Somersault (review)". SBS . Retrieved 14 February 2013.

Further reading