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average rating is 3 out of 5


Amber Jackson


Posted on:

Sep 26, 2022

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Ben Hackworth
Written by:
Bille Brown & Ben Hackworth
Radha Mitchell, Thomas Cocquerel, Nadine Garner

Turbulent and dangerous, beautiful and sublime. Celeste itself is a bit of an oxymoron, with its beautiful landscape and secrets and dismay lurking within. A film by Ben Hackworth, this Australian film tells the story of a disjointed family coming together again to save the decaying world that they call home. Location unfamiliar and glorious, it is spell-binding – almost as though we are intruding just by watching.


Protagonist Celeste, a ‘renowned opera diva’, retired from performing for the man that she loved, Mateo, to live on a crumbling and beautiful rainforest estate in Far North Queensland – before his sudden death. Ten years on, the film begins in the time leading up to Celeste doing one final performance. Whilst it is unclear what Celeste’s motivations are throughout the film, she is enthralling to watch and there is a need to discover more about her whilst watching. Jack, Mateo’s son, returns home and is scared and troubled in life. He too finds Celeste both beautiful, yet intoxicating, just as he did when he was a boy. The relationship between stepson and stepmother is strained and strange and there are a lot of uncertainties as to what happened between them after Mateo’s death.


Ultimately, there is the sense that life in the rainforest wasn’t close to perfect at all.


The Australian landscape is the most captivating part of the film, with beautiful cinematography and sublime shots of the rainforest. Overlapping sounds of nature and the constant noise creates a sense of timelessness of Australia, where, despite being run-down and crumbling away, Celeste’s home is ever-present and seemingly all-knowing. It feels as though it exists in another time, as there is a raw timelessness to the script and the way that it is filmed. In capturing those within the landscape, the camera is over-bearing and uncomfortably encounters each character that is underwhelming, yet uneasy.


Hackworth’s film continually feels as though it is building to something but falls short of being overwhelming. Instead, the viewer is left feeling sad yet unsatisfied with the lives of Celeste and Jack. Both self-obsessed, they struggle to reconcile the trauma of Mateo’s death and reunite for all of the wrong reasons and there are some Freudian elements that cannot be overlooked. It feels as though we are watching two simultaneous falls from grace as Celeste and Jack both desperately seek to fill a void that they cannot fill. However, the third act suddenly comes to life and is the crowning glory of the film – it is bold and powerful as both characters fall apart. It saves the film and gives it meaning, whilst offering both Celeste and Jack purpose.


Structurally, Celeste feels as though it is written to be an opera. Dramatic and melancholy, Celeste is described as the ‘bright young life of Australian opera’. It is poetic, the cinematography spectacular, but the plot itself not spectacular.

Watch Celeste online on the UK Film Review VOD platform.

About the Film Critic
Amber Jackson
Amber Jackson
Indie Feature Film, World Cinema
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