The Last Days of Chez Nous

Director: Gillian Armstrong
Screenwriters: Helen Garner

Institute History

  • 1993 Sundance Film Festival


The latest film by Australia's Gillian Armstrong, like her earlier work which is best known in the United States, My Brilliant Career and Mrs. Soffel, focuses on a memorable female protagonist. Lisa Harrow, who won the 1992 Best Actress Award from the Australian Film Institute, plays Beth, whose sister Vicki comes home following a disastrous romance in Europe, and proceeds to disrupt Beth's family and ultimately her life. Kerry Fox plays the younger sibling, whose youth and practically teenage demeanor set her apart from Beth, whose role as the mother of the house, while not completely traditional, is nevertheless confining. Beth's European-born husband (Bruno Ganz) seems to live a separate life from his wife, busy with his job; they barely share a bed, and certainly lack any real intimacy. Events initiated by her sister's intrusion and her husband's distance eventually bring Beth face to face with the implications of relationships she has managed to avoid or repress up until now. She is left standing alone, but grown-up and independent, perhaps for the first time in her life.

In the past Armstrong has demonstrated the emotive power she can bring to the screen, and this complex, yet pointed, family melodrama is no exception. The madcap and often-tumultuous clash of personalities and needs generates an unending stream of moments which alternately charm and chill the viewer. Particularly given the machismo atmosphere of Australian society, the story of a woman coming into her own is a provocative and resonant achievement. The ensemble's performances are absolutely top-notch, and the settings and camerawork distinctive. Those who know her work, and those for whom this film will be an introduction, will all agree that Gillian Armstrong is a director whose films should not be missed.

Tuesday Jan 26 9:00 pm
Prospector Square Theatre

Wednesday 27 Noon
Prospector Square Theatre

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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