In a Sydney suburb, two nurses, a housekeeper and a solicitor attend to Elizabeth Hunter (Charlotte Rampling) as her expatriate son and daughter convene at her deathbed. In dying, as in living, Mrs. Hunter remains a formidable force on those around her.
It is via Mrs Hunter’s authority over living that her household and children vicariously face death and struggle to give consequence to life.
Estranged from a mother who was never capable of loving them Sir Basil (Geoffrey Rush), a famous but struggling actor in London and Dorothy (Judy Davis), an impecunious French princess, attempt to reconcile with her. In doing so they are reduced from states of worldly sophistication to floundering adolescence.
The children unite in a common goal — to leave Australia with their vast inheritance. Moving through Sydney’s social scene, they search for a way to fulfil their desire. Using the reluctant services of their family lawyer Arnold Wyburd (John Gaden), a man long in love with Mrs Hunter, they scheme to place their mother in a society nursing home to expedite her demise.
Panic sets in as the staff sense the impending end of their eccentric world. Mrs Hunter confesses her profound disappointment at failing to recreate the state of humility and grace she experienced when caught in the eye of a cyclone fifteen years earlier.
For the first time in their lives, the meaning of compassion takes the children by surprise. During a ferocious storm Mrs Hunter finally dies, not through a withdrawal of will but by an assertion of it. In the process of dying she re-lives her experience in the cyclone. Standing on a beach, she is calm and serene as devastation surrounds her.
About Judy Davis
Judy Davis is one of Australia’s most versatile actors. Internationally acclaimed, with a career spanning over thirty years, Judy has impacted audiences with a variety of award winning film and television performances. Graduating from drama school NIDA in 1977, Judy first came to prominence for her role as Sybylla Melvyn in the coming-of-age saga My Brilliant Career (1979), for which she won BAFTA Awards for Best Actress and Best Newcomer. Following this she played the lead in such Australian New Wave classics as Winter of Our Dreams (1981) (as the waif-like heroin addict) and Heatwave (1982) (as the radical tenant organizer).
The two-time Emmy Award winner is best known for portraying formidable real-life women on TV, including the notorious felon, Sante Kimes, in A Little Thing Called Murder and Hollywood legend, Judy Garland, in the miniseries Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows. Davis made television history when ‘Life With Judy Garland’ received the most nominations for a single performance and won every award she was nominated for, including the Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and the American Film Institute Awards. Her other significant television roles include her Emmy Award winning role portraying the woman who gently coaxes rigid military woman Glenn Close out of the closet in Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story, with subsequent nominations for her repressed Australian outback mother in The Echo of Thunder, her portrayal of Lillian Hellman in Dash and Lilly, her frigid society matron in A Cooler Climate (1999) and her interpretation of Nancy Reagan in the controversial biopic The Reagans.
Davis received Academy Award® nominations for her roles in A Passage to India and Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives. Woody Allen is a great admirer of Judy’s work, and has described her as “good looking, smart and quick-witted and unpredictable”, and consequently has cast her in five films, including his current production, Bop Decameron, where she will play his onscreen wife.
Additional film credits include Marie Antoinette, The Break Up, Kangaroo, Impromptu, Naked Lunch, Barton Fink, The Ref, On My Own, Children of the Revolution, Absolute Power, Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity. Australian productions include Swimming Upstream, opposite her Eye of the Storm co-star Geoffrey Rush, and AFI award winning roles in Kangaroo and High Tide.
In theatre, Judy made her professional debut as Juliet, opposite Mel Gibson’s Romeo. She also played both Cordelia and the Fool in a 1984 staging of King Lear for the Nimrod Theatre Company. Her other credits for the company include their productions of Miss Julie / The Bear, Inside The Island, and in 1986 the title role in Hedda Gabler, a landmark performance in Australian theatre. In the early ‘80s, she 3 portrayed French chanteuse Edith Piaf in the play Piaf at the Perth Playhouse, and also starred in Visions (Paris Theatre Company). In 2004 she made a return to stage and starred in and co-directed Victory, as a Puritan woman determined to locate her husband’s dismembered corpse. Other stage directorial credits include The School For Scandal and Barrymore, all three of which were for the Sydney Theatre Company. Most recently she portrayed the role of fading actress Irina Arkadina in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre to critical acclaim and sold out audiences.