Version: 1979; directed by Gillian Armstrong; starring Judy Davis and Sam Neill
Genre: classic; drama; romance
Plot Summary: Sybella Melvyn is a headstrong young lady living in turn of the century Australia. She longs to be able to follow the path of a career for herself, even though her family is struggling to make ends meet in the country. When she is invited to stay with her wealthy relations, she jumps at the chance … and is reacquainted with handsome well-to-do Harry Beecham. When he starts showing interest in her which leads to a proposal, she is forced to choose between a life a with Harry, or a life of independence.
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel. Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book. When I first noticed this film on Netflix, I was surprised to see that it was only rated PG. What, really? I thought, and decided to check it out. The last time I saw a ‘PG’ on the back of a DVD case I thought it deserved a more of a degenerate rating, so I was watching this with fingers crossed. It turns out that yes, this really is rated PG (in my opinion).
I really enjoyed this movie. I knew nothing about it before I watched it, but was immediately taken in by young Judy Davis’s amazing voice (I’m going to check and see if she ever narrated audiobooks!). Was Sam Neill really that young and handsome once? Oh, yes! I appreciated the slow-moving build up of Sybella and Harry’s romance. Not rushed. Not forced. Not much said. Making them wait. Making you wait. All resulting in a quietly culminating plot.
This is a story that gets you to thinking. SPOILER ALERT: Did Sybella make the right decision in the end? It’s hard to say, and I probably will want to go back and watch this again in order to think more about it. On the one hand, my first reaction is that apparently Sybella knew herself well enough to know that she couldn’t ever be really happy with Harry. I think that she made the right decision for herself at that time. Two complete people make for a better, stronger marriage. Sybella seems to make her choice based on the fact that she knows she would not be able to make Harry a satisfactory partner if she didn’t have some time in which she could figure out who she really was first. But on the other hand, perhaps Sybella makes a blinded choice based on her self-hatred. Could it be that she loathes her looks and personality so much that she denies herself and the person she truly loves happiness? If this is the case, then maybe Sybella still made the right choice in that her persistent dislike of herself (left undealt with) could make a life with Harry miserable. END OF SPOILER.
Some may find this movie boring. It definitely is on the quiet side, but I was not bored due to the suspenseful build up of the plotline. Sometimes we may struggle with liking the main character, but I chose to see her as an imperfect heroine figuring out life just as I am. She makes a mistake here or there, but we all do. Yay for people who know exactly what they want at age 18 and never change their minds and never regret their choices, but I’m not one of them and neither are most people, I’m guessing. Undoubtedly some will probably read more into this story than I have when it comes to themes of feminism. I just took the story as I saw it..
Have you seen My Brilliant Career? What did you think of it? Share your thoughts below!