Forgive and forget, or at least forgive and get over it, might be good advice for our souls/karma/general state of mental health. But, you know, there’s something so very satisfying about a great revenge story.
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham is one of my favourite books. I reviewed it enthusiastically five years ago, when I picked it for my library’s online book club read of the month. I was *super* excited when I heard it was being filmed.
Ah, and what a fantastic job they’ve done of making it into a film. I loved it! It looked perfect. I was completely emotionally engaged with it – laughing at the humour, recoiling from the revolting, gasping at the transformations worked by the amazing dresses. I wept buckets at the sad bits (in fact, I started crying before the sad bits because I knew they were coming). It was a fantastic two hours and I emerged from the cinema dehydrated and blinking at the reality of the world.
Which is pretty much the same effect the book has on me – the immersion just lasts a little longer.
I particularly love two things about this story. The first is that it doesn’t box itself into being just one thing. If you want a rom-com with a happy ever after – er, no. If you want a serious examination of the dark recesses of humanity – look out, Mad Molly’s made the hash brownies a little stronger this time. But it is romantic, and comedic, and tragic – sometimes at the same time. And that’s great storytelling.
The other is that Tilly’s sewing skills and eye for fashion can transform the way the women of the town look, but she can’t change what they are really like. A fabulous dress does not make you a nice person. Old secrets are raked up and resolved, but Tilly is not forgiven, and not accepted. Not because there’s something wrong with her, but because there is something wrong – something closed off and soured – about the people of Dungatar.
They forego their opportunity to transform. And so it’s up to Tilly to force that transformation in an incredibly satisfying revenge scene.
The director, Jocelyn Moorhouse is said to have decribed the movie as Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven with a sewing machine”, and that’s pretty much perfect.
So if you’re in the mood for a gunslinger in Dior, I highly recommend you go and see The Dressmaker. And, if you really want a treat, read the book too.