“…quality is not dead in Australian cinema.”
On her eighteenth birthday, Steph (Emma Lung) is given her late mother’s diary, the key to both her past and future. She learns of the exploits of her parents before their death in a car accident and the love affair between their best friends – the playful Jude (Jacqueline McKenzie) and idealistic Alan (Hugo Weaving) – who worked at the local riverside peach cannery. Years later, Alan is the cannery’s gruff foreman and Jude, who has adopted Steph, now has daggers for Alan and has lost her zest for life. Steph is drawn to Alan and the two begin a passionate affair, a catalyst for them to seek escape from their claustrophobic lives.
Peaches is an assured sophomore effort from director Craig Monahan, who makes an ambitious leap from the dark film noir of The Interview to a much wider, brighter canvas, although no less complex. Writer Sue Smith (Brides Of Christ) expertly entwines past and present, using the diary as her narrative tool, exploring issues of change, loss and love amidst a backdrop of economic rationalism and union breaking. Well rounded characters are brought to life by Weaving and McKenzie, who plausibly play twenty-somethings in flashbacks. There are also impressive debut feature performances from Emma Lung and Matt Le Nevez as Alan’s shabbily charismatic half brother.
Pristine cinematography captures the nuances of the cannery from peach tree to conveyor belt, as well as highlighting the lush South Australian river lands, which mirror a Ken Duncan postcard. Meanwhile the moving score from Oscar winning composer David Hirschfelder adds gravitas to this sensuous, layered character-driven drama, which demonstrates that quality is not dead in Australian cinema.