(Gaylene Preston, New Zealand, 1993) 2 x100 minutes


Director: Gaylene Preston
Producer: Robin Laing
Screenplay: Graeme Tetley, Gaylene Preston.
based on the autobiography by Sonja Davies
Photography: Allen Guilford
Editor: Paul Sutorius
Music: John Charles
Genevieve Picot (Sonja)
Mick Rose (Charlie)
Donna Akerston (Mrs Mackersey)
Raymond Hawthorne (Mr Mackersey)
Tina Regyien (Con)
Erik Thomson (Red)

Reviews and notes

In a breathtakingly sustained act of imaginative identification, Gaylene Preston has created a tribute to her mother's generation of New Zealand women. Her superb adaptation of Sonja Davies' autobiography will ring resoundingly true - and disconcertingly truthful - for many New Zealanders.

Much of its sharp eye for social history belongs to the woman at its centre. An illegitimate child, the Davies of Preston's film grew up with the middle class, but not of it, a watchful outsider looking for a safe haven. In Genevieve Picot's lucid and moving performance, the young Davies' pride in her own self-worth is never in doubt, but just how she is to live up to it is much less clear. Her outspoken recognition of the pressures wartime society places on women not only irritates her peers: it also fails to exempt her from the harsh experiences undergone by so many others.

We see her fall in love with a GI, farewell him to war and disappear up country to bear an illegitimate child. We also witness the tuberculosis, contracted while nursing, which almost killed her. Davies' consequent journey towards political activism gives the film its direction, but it's the epic of common experience she embodies that gives it such substance. Audiences may be startled into delighted reacquaintance with a thousand nuances of an earlier New Zealand, but there's nothing conservative or nostalgic about this view of our past. A long time in the gestation, this is a richly developed, highly detailed and beautifully realised piece of work utterly warranting the big screen treatment we're delighted to give it.
-Bill Gosden, Wellington Film Festival, 1993.

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