Somersault (film)

Somersault is a 2004 Australian independent romantic drama film written and directed by Cate Shortland, featuring Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington. Shot in the winter of 2003, it was released in 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).

Theatrical release poster
Directed byCate Shortland
Produced byAnthony Anderson
Jan Chapman
Written byCate Shortland
StarringAbbie Cornish
Sam Worthington
Erik Thomson
Anne Louise Lambert
Leah Purcell
Music byDecoder Ring
CinematographyRobert Humphreys
Edited byScott Gray
Distributed byHopscotch Productions
Release date
17 May 2004 (2004-05-17)
Running time
106 minutes
BudgetA$4 million[1]
Box officeA$2,158,574[2]

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—their song "Somersault" plays during the end credits. Some scenes were shot at the Ryrie homestead at Michelago, New South Wales.


Heidi, a somewhat isolated, sexually promiscuous teenager living in the suburbs of Canberra, flees her home after her mother, Nicole, finds Heidi kissing Nicole's boyfriend. Isolated and alone, she initially travels to Snowy River with the promise of a job offer, however after phoning the person who informed her of the job prospect, she is rebuffed as the person explains they do not remember her. Heidi's attractive appearance and vulnerability lead her into various situations and escapades in the small town. She meets a stranger at a bar and has sex with him. In the morning, he informs her of his plans to travel to Sydney and Heidi asks if she can accompany him. His friend informs her that he already has a girlfriend and the idea of Heidi travelling with him is dismissed as a result of this. She strikes up a friendship with Irene, an older woman who runs a motel in the town. Irene, realising Heidi has very little life experience and no permanent roots in the town, offers her a flatrent at the back of the motel. In order to pay the rent, Heidi must find a job, and after an unsuccessful attempt to work at a ski hire shop, she is hired at a Petrol station. One of Heidi's co-workers is Bianca and the two become friends after Bianca offers her a lift home one evening.

While in town, Heidi eventually meets Joe, an equally confused young man who is having trouble with his sexuality. Joe is the son of a wealthy local farmer who finds comfort in her presence. However, Joe's insecurities towards his sexual orientation lead to a turbulent relationship between the two. Staying with Joe's parents is Richard, a gay man. Although the two share passion, Joe and Heidi's dysfunctional personalities sometimes lead to a disconnect between one another. One night, Joe takes Heidi to a Chinese restaurant, and she asks Joe if he loves her. When he refuses to answer, she swallows a small bowl of chilli. He drags her to the bathroom to expel the chilli and takes her back to the motel.

While trying to express and reciprocate feelings towards Heidi, Joe kisses Richard, leading to further problems for the newly acquainted couple. The following morning, Joe's cold and distant father fails to comfort Joe, who is both drunk and emotionally distressed. Eventually, he goes to visit Heidi, who has brought home two men from a club she visited and proceeded to have sex with them when they are interrupted by Joe. Heidi tells him that he shouldn't leave without calling her and says that her having sex with the men is the result of his actions. Joe punches one of the men after they make fun of him and leaves Heidi, much to her despair. The next morning, Irene tells Heidi that after the scene she made the night before, she is no longer welcome to stay in the rental apartment. Heidi breaks down and comes clean about her past with her mother, which Irene sees an act of desperation and comforts her in her own home. There, she asks Heidi to call her mother and make amends. The film ends as Heidi's mother comes to pick her up, as she reunites with Joe. The two smile at each other before she gets into the car and returns to an uncertain future in Canberra.



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 picked 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.

See also


  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. "At the Movies: Somersault". 9 September 2004. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  8. Kernebone, Fenella. "Somersault (review)". SBS. Retrieved 14 February 2013.

Further reading

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