1989 / Director. Ann Turner.
CELIA is an almost forgotten Australian film that suffered from it's own marketing. It did receive a lot of acclaim at the time and has gained a respectful following over the years but it's various alternative titles have done it a huge disservice, such as CELIA: CHILD OF TERROR and CELIA: A TALE OF INNOCENCE CORRUPTED. These titles give the wrong impression and suggest that the film is something that it is not. Rebecca Smart (remember her?) stars as Celia, a 9 year old girl on her summer break in 1957 Melbourne. With the death of her grandmother fresh in her mind, she welcomes the arrival of new neighbours and their children. They're a kind family and she attaches herself to them as a solace from her strict and irrational father. When the new neighbours are exposed as Communist sympathisers, the neighbourhood is thrown into panic and Celia's newfound happiness is turned into confusion and turmoil. She creates an imaginary world where adults are monsters and she is a victim turned heroine. CELIA is a belter of a film. It's very much a coming of age tale and it's beautifully made. The late 50's era is wonderfully captured and topical events of the time lay the foundation for the story. Rebecca Smart is insanely good as an innocent child dealing with adult problems and she handles some very grim and potent themes so maturely. It's a confronting film and comparisons have been drawn to films like LORD OF THE FLIES and Traffaut's THE 400 BLOWS. The comparisons are fair, but CELIA is unto it's own. Well written. Superbly performed and skilfully directed... go out and find it. It's an Australian gem!