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Beautiful (Review)

Beautiful (Review)

Things aren't as beautiful as they may seem...
Feb 25, 2009
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Beautiful (Review), reviewed by Elise Fahy on 2009-02-25T00:02:29+00:00 rating 4.0 out of5

When films have names like Beautiful, you go along half expecting to see this beauty described in the title, but half expecting it to be the exact opposite. Dean O’Flaherty has created a film here that is the best of both worlds: in some parts it is stunning, the title aptly describing these moments, but in other parts it is just shocking, showing how terribly ugly our world can be. In amongst these stark contrasts is a film that is an intriguing piece of contemporary Australian cinema, with an unexpectedly brutal ending.

From the outside, Sunshine Hills seems like a perfect, picturesque suburb, but the residents live in fear. Stories of teenage girls being abducted and murdered plague the neighbourhood, and adding to their paranoia is the derelict house at number 46 and its strange occupants. Daniel, played by the brilliant Sebastian Gregory, is a quiet 14-year-old that loves taking photos, especially of his next-door neighbour Suzy (Tahyna Tozzi). A 16-year-old seductress, Suzy uses her looks and Daniel’s crush on her to get him to sneak around the suburb, taking photos and trying to unravel the mystery of the missing girls. Suzy is masterfully manipulative and knows how to control her younger counterpart, whilst Daniel’s starry eyes prevent him from seeing the danger his crush is getting him into. Daniel discovers the ghost-like woman living in number 46 that stares out the window all day and the seemingly violent man that comes home to her every night, and Suzy pressures him to find more. At the same time, secrets from Daniel’s past are begging to be discovered, but are kept under wraps by his policeman father (Aaron Jeffery). Many other little side stories also help to add to the suspense and hold the audience’s attention. Once Suzy goes missing from her house and Daniel receives the distress call, he goes searching for her at number 46, with disastrous and unexpected consequences. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will tell you that it’s the only time in recent years that I have heard an audience gasp so much at the end of a film! It left me absolutely stunned, and the ending was still sinking in well after I left the cinema.

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After the introduction gets you involved in the story of the missing girls, the spectacular cinematography is alone almost enough to make this film worth watching. The first scene showing Suzy sunbaking in the rain is quite a spectacle (as well as showing how much of an attention-seeker she is!). Throughout the movie, shots of the environment, the suburban landscape and the photos taken by Daniel, among others, are so rich in colour and so captivating that they truly fulfil the film’s name. The Australian cast all perform well, especially the young Sebastian Gregory, who really brings out the shyness and insecurities in his character. From the outset the main story doesn’t seem incredibly original, but there are many twists and turns, secrets and surprises that were not expected at the start of the film. And I will mention that ending again, because it should leave an impact on everyone.


Australian cinema has never looked so good, literally! This was a film that was beautifully shot, but had a story and ending that was far from beautiful. Rather, it showed the dreadful and dangerous side of suburbia, and what can happen when you start delving into the secrets of others. Striking yet terrible, a good yet horrible story, Beautiful is a film that will keep you in suspense throughout. And then deliver the most brutal of knockout punches at the end!

[Rating: 4/5]

Beautiful screens apart of the 2009 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival.

Tickets are still available for a second screening on the 27th Feb at 7:00 PM. For more information, visit the BAFF website here.

For more reviews and features from the Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival, visit the page devoted to our coverage  here.

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