What Do The Critics Say?
"Part road movie, part romance, part drama about overcoming grief, Summer Coda is the striking debut feature film by writer/director Richard Gray. This is an extremely enjoyable film that will seduce audiences with its blend of appealing characters, glorious locations and an intelligent story about loss and love. The most immediately striking thing about Summer Coda is its ability to convey a wealth of story and character information visually. The visuals are also absolutely stunning to look at."
Thomas Caldwell CINEMA AUTOPSY
"Yet another of those sweet, charming Australian films that will probably vanish quickly from cinemas and be seen by only a handful of film goers. Gray certainly has talent though, offering up convincing, well written dialogue and a palpable feeling of enthusiasm and passion. His film also looks and sounds great, thanks to the cinematography of Greg De Marigny, and a beautiful, violin-based score by local composer, Alies Sluiter."
Belinda Hazelton FILMINK
"Summer Coda has a lot to recommend and a recommendation this review most surely is. Delicately handled, exquisite to look at and charmingly acted, Richard Grayís debut feature proves to be another lovely addition to the roster of quality Australian films for 2010."
"What struck me most about Summer Coda were its visuals. Iíve never harnessed a desire to visit Mildura but thatís changed thanks to the beautiful cinematography of Greg De Marigny. Itís hard to believe that it wasnít shot using traditional 35mm film. Instead, Richard Gray has used the latest in digital technology to create a film which looks very impressive on the big screen."
Matthew Toomey THE FILM PIE
"Dimitriades imbues his role with a sense of real life. Debuting helmer Richard Gray concentrates on interesting objects and spectacular scenery to compensate for his flat script. Greg De Marigny's warm and welcoming HD lensing delights in the splendors of Australia's orange groves. Tech credits are top-quality."
Russell Edwards VARIETY
Like the film's ambling story, Heidi and Michael's relationship begins slowly, neither offering much insight about themselves or their lives. Little by little, we learn more about themLoss, regret, guilt and letting go are some of the themes expressed as reluctances are forsaken and hopes for the future are embraced. Picturesque rural Victoria is the setting for Richard Gray's debut feature about families, secrets and oranges."
"Taylor's Heidi, a strong-willed beauty who is a lot tougher than she looks, has returned to Australia after years in the US to go to the funeral of the father she has not seen since childhood.Dimitriades displays plenty of low-key charm as a man suddenly struck with the realisation that life may be about to smile on him again. It's Eden on the Murray and if you sit back and let its glories wash over you, you'll find a lot here to like."
"This first feature by writer-director Richard Gray has at its core a delicate love story involving two damaged people. I think both Rachael Taylor and particularly Alex Dimitriades, because I've not seen him in a role quite like this before and I thought he was really good in it. In the end it's the love story that counts and it's a beautifully acted and surprisingly touching relationship."
David Stratton ABC AT THE MOVIES
The Inside Story
Making your first feature film would be a daunting prospect for anyone, let alone taking on all the responsibilities of director, writer and producer. What was it then that inspire Richard Gray to write "Summer Coda"? "Summer Coda's original premise was based on how my Mum met my Dad. A story I always loved hearing growing up. But it's actually changed dramatically since then. The first image that came to me was of a girl hitchhiking, carrying a violin case. I couldn't get it out of my head: it was as if the image was demanding I develop it! I knew this girl was traveling home against the odds, and I knew that she had no money so she needed to hitchhike. That's where it all began, those images were the first building blocks. Once I'd mapped out a plan for Heidi I began exploring fruit picking. It sounds crazy, but I'd seen so much of it hanging out in Mildura I became addicted to watching fruit pickers at work. They're such diverse and crazy characters, I had to get them on screen somehow. So as Heidi is looking for escape and respite from her family life: what better way to achieve that than to spend one summer with the likes of Angus Sampson, Nathan Phillips and Cassandra Magrath, not to mention the handsome farmer!" Gray was originally involved with the Australian arm of Project Greenlight which offered aspiring screenwriters the chance to receive a million dollars in funding to get their project off the ground. Morgan O'Neill took the prize with "Solo". Starring Colin Friels, Vince Colosimo, Angie Milliken, Chris Haywood AND Bojana Novakovic ("Drag Me To Hell" & "Edge Of Darkness") O'Neill's film was released in 2006. So what happened to Gray's entry, since then? "I wrote Summer Coda after finishing film school at the VCA (Victorian College of the Art) in 2003. I had such a ball at film school, and I'm so pumped the VCA might yet have a future. I entered Project Greenlight in 2005, not sure why, it was a toss of a coin actually, but it turned out to be an awesome experience. It forced me to focus harder on the screenplay, really concentrate on the arc of the characters, and to write better dialogue: which is always my main goal. Project Greenlight also introduced me to some very talented industry pros, which have been crucial in getting the film up. So much has changed since that first screenplay draft, but I never stopped wanting to make it. The money fell in and out of the project so many times! But even after six years I'm more passionate about the story than ever. I can't wait for an audience to see it on the big screen. Seeing it screened for the first time was totally overwhelming, I still can't quite believe it's happening." And the films that have shaped him? "Paul Thomas Anderson has been a great influence. Boogie Nights made me want to be a director. It opened my mind to what was possible. Other than PTA, I gotta say I'm a sucker for everything Christopher Nolan does. Anyone that can do true indie to major blockbusters is a supreme talent, and it's certainly something I aspire to. Summer Coda is very different to the films of PTA and Nolan, but it's the story telling, dialogue and camera work that I get most influenced by. I love all genres and Summer Coda is my crack at a romantic drama. It's certainly a story that is very close to my heart, and so it felt like the right film to make first." What were the challenges and rewards of filming in a regional location? "Mildura was hot. Damn hot. But so beautiful, and so great to capture on film. As hardcore as the heat was (often up to fourty seven degrees), it worked in our favour: it made the emotional scenes on the road, where Heidi hitchhikes and busks in the searing heat."
"Without that intense heat, the juxtaposition would not have been as great. I can honestly say that shooting in a regional location was a dream. The locals were such an amazing help to us. They provided everything: Extras, Caterers, Runners, Accommodation. We couldn't have made the film without Mildura's generous support." How does he think the film will fit into the current landscape for Australian cinema and what does he want audiences to get out of the film? "I hope that Summer Coda offers something different. A romantic drama that has enough adventure that it can be enjoyed by a wide audience. But also enough heart, because it really has come from a truthful place. More than anything, I hope people enjoy the way the film is crafted, particularly the cinematography and score, and the performances from our awesome cast. Working with them and our hard working crew was a dream come true. I have to pinch myself when I think about it, and I can't wait to do it again! Gray has assembled a pretty impressive ensemble cast for his debut feature. But was it easy to get who he wanted? "I've been very lucky. Rachael and Alex saw something in the roles and were super keen right from the outset. From there it was an avalanche effect. I'd always wanted my mates Cassandra Magrath and Angus Sampson to get onboard, and working with champions like Nathan Phillips, Susie Porter and Jacki Weaver was a real treat." And the atmosphere on the set: how was that? "Hanging out on set with actors of this quality was my favourite part of the whole production. Just bliss. There's nothing better than work-shopping and role developing with this type of quality. On set we had a ball! So much fun. The fruit pickers would rock up in a ute like rock stars: in perfect character; ghetto blaster booming, trash talking, half naked, ready to pick up a storm!" And the two leads work well together, don't they? "Rachael and Alex have delivered beautiful performances. I couldn't be happier with what they brought to the table." Former Miss Teen Tasmania (1998) Rachael Taylor grew up in Launceston, Tasmania, later moving to Sydney at the age of sixteen. She always wanted to be an actress and got her wish. Quickly achieving success as an actress and model, she starred as Sasha Forbes in the ill-fated Australian TV series "Headland" and was nominated for a Logie Award. She soon made the transition to Hollywood, appearing in the blockbuster "Transformers" (with Josh Duhamel), horror hit "Shutter" (with Joshua Jackson) and Sundance favourite "Bottle Shock" (with Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman). Last year, she starred in the acclaimed Australian film "Cedar Boys". She recently completed filming on the anticipated new Australian film "Red Dog" (with Josh Lucas) and is currently in Russia shooting "The Darkest Hour" (3D) alongside Emile Hirsch, for director Kriv Stenders. Alex Dimitriades began his career in the Australian film "The Heartbreak Kid" followed by a role as the protagonist Ari in the Ana Kokkinos film "Head On which" earned him an AFI Award nomination. He has also appeared in other Australian films such as "Three Blind Mice", "Let's Get Skase", "The Wog Boy" and "La Spagnola" which earned him another AFI Award nomination. His Hollywood films include "Ghost Ship" and "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo". Dimitriades has starred in several Australian TV series including fourty three episodes of "Wildside" as Charlie Coustos, twenty two episodes of "Young Lions" as Detective Snr Const Eddie Mercia, and the Tele-Movie "Blue Murder" (as Warren Lanfranchi), "Heartbreak High", "Neighbours" (nine episodes as Steve George) and "Underbelly" (as Mr T).
He has also appeared in many theatre productions including two plays by Louis Nowra for Griffin Theatre Company, "The Woman with Dog's Eyes" and "The Emperor of Sydney". He recently appeared alongside Nick Giannopoulos and Vince Colosimo in "The Wog Boy" sequel, "The King Of Mykonos", playing bad guy, Mihali. Angus Sampson is an Australian actor and voice over artist. He recently played the role of 'The Bull' in Spike Jonze's "Where The Wild Things Are", the adaptation of Maurice Sendak's 1964 picture book of the same name. His other credits include "Footy Legends", "Kokoda", "The King" as Ugly Dave Gray, "Darkness Falls", "Secret Life of Us", "Thank God You're Here" and in "Underbelly" as Michael Thorneycroft. Cassandra Magrath (who began acting at the age of eleven) is best known for her portrayal of Miranda Gibson in the Australian ABC television series "Sea Change" and for her lead role as Liz Hunter in the 2005 Australian horror film "Wolf Creek". Other credits include "City Homicide" and "Blue Heelers". Daniel Frederiksen has had an extensive career across film, television and theatre. After studying at NIDA, he first achieved recognition as Dr Josh Carmichael in the television series "Blue Heelers", followed by the role of undercover police officer Leo Flyn in the TV drama "Stingers", receiving a Logie nomination for for Best New Talent and an AFI nomination for Best Actor in a Television Drama for his role as Greg Combet in "Bastard Boys". His feature film roles include a lead in "Ten Empty" and a support role opposite Natalie Imbruglia in "Closed for Winter", as well as the starring role of Randy in the US telemovie "Mermaids and as Wallow in "Ghost Rider". Daniel is a respected theatre actor and a founding member of Red Stitch independent theatre company. Some of his performances include "After Miss Julie", "The Pain & The Itch" and Leaves of Glass. His MTC stage credits include: "Cheech, Don Juan in Soho" and most recently "Rockabye". Daniel is currently directing his first play at Red Stitch. NIDA graduate (1995) Susie Porter has appeared in Australian films such as "Bootmen", "Mullet", "Little Fish" and "Caterpillar Wish" which won her Best Supporting Actress at the AFI Awards. 2006 was a successful year for her with a leading role in the Australian mini-series "RAN" which won her an AFI Award for 'Best Leading Actress in a Television Drama' and "Love My Way". In 2009, she appeared on the second seasons of "East of Everything" and "East West 101" (winning another AFI), and first run "The Jesters" and "My Place" (TV series). Since her debut in the role of Cinderella fourty five years ago, Jacki Weaver has won many Best Actress Awards, including a Logie and two AFIs. She reached a career high this year with her acclaimed performance in the Sundance winning crime saga "Animal Kingdom" (now out on DVD). Recently she featured as Shirley in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and toured in the one-woman drama "Blonde, Brunette & Vengeful Redhead" for three hundred performances in fifty eight theatres Australia wide. Her famous roles include "Prisoner of Second Avenue" and "Death of a Salesman". Jacki has never acted in a soap opera but she has played an Asparagus and two Koalas. Nathan Phillips, one of Australia's busiest feature film actors has in the last seven years, appeared in twelve feature films, including "Take Away", "One Perfect Day" and "Under the Radar", the 2005 hit horror film "Wolf Creek" which helped to launch his US film career with roles in "Snakes on a Plane" and "Redline". Phillips has not abandoned his Australian roots recently appearing in the film "Balibo".
What's It All About?
Heidi, a young woman haunted by the memory of her father, returns to Australia seeking closure. Armed with only her violin and a little cash, she arrives in Melbourne and embarks on a journey down memory lane: visiting an old neighbour and busking for a meal at a country roadhouse she once visited with her dad. Here her melancholic music catches the attention of Michael. When he finds her hitchhiking on the side of the highway, he offers her a ride. Later, after a run-in with locals at a country pub, a tentative bond forms between them. To her surprise, parting proves harder than expected. A family reunion doesn't go to plan. She is taken for a gold-digger and rejects the one person who might fill the void: her half-brother Lachlan. She flees to Michael's orange grove in Mildura. Eventually she drops her guard and allows her feelings for Michael to flourish. But when she discovers hidden truths about Michael's past, it throws their relationship into jeopardy. As the past unravels, they are forced to confront the future.
The Verdict
"In 2004 the Australian film "Peaches", directed by 1998 AFI Award winner Craig Monahan ("The Interview"), starring 1991 & 1998 AFI Award winner Hugo Weaving, 1995 AFI & 1996 Silver Logie Awards winner Jacqueline McKenzie and a young actress named Emma Lung, who went on to win the 2005 AFI Award and the 2007 the Graham Kennedy Award for Most Outstanding New Talent for the film "Stranded". "Peaches" had all the hallmarks of success: score by 1993 & 1999 BAFTA winner David Hirschfelder ("Strictly Ballroom" & "Elizabeth"), screenplay by 1993 AFI Award winner Sue Smith ("The Leaving of Liverpool") with cinematography by 2006 ACS Hall of Fame inductee, Ernie Clark A.C.S. David Stratton described "Peaches" as having "wonderfully realised characters, in a film which is sensual and beautiful, but also rather sad." Sadly it wasn't enough to guarantee the success the film so richly deserved. Flash forward to 2010. This time the fruit to be picked is Oranges and the film is "Summer Coda". It too has a lot going for it. Good cast, interesting storyline, great soundtrack and it looks good. It's a drama/romance with a simple plot: young woman seeking closure after the death of her estranged father, meets handsome Orange grower and then fights the emotional bonds of love forming between them. That's right. It's a 'will they or won't they' story with a satisfying end. Rachael Taylor (who had an 'aussie' accent in "Transformers" sports an american accent this time round) and Alex Dimitriades are convincing in the lead roles. Jacki Weaver does a little cameo appearance at the start while the much lauded Susie Porter plays the grieving widow, Angela. It's an easy on the eye film and one you just go along for the ride with. And, you'd never guess "Summer Coda" is the feature debut for cinematographer Greg De Marigny. Let's hope 'aussie' cinemagoers, give "Summer Coda" a fair go, because it sure deserves one. If you're into film soundtracks, this one is out on the Liberation label with tracks by Liam Finn, Dan Sultan, Custom Kings, Alies Sluiter and more. WALA. 3 1/2 STARS."
The Production Team
Script Editor
Original Music
Film Editor
Production Design
Art Direction
Costume Design
Makeup Artist
Richard Gray
Richard Gray
Michele Davis
John Finemore/Marc Goldenfein/Richard Gray
Alies Sluiter
Greg De Marigny
Gary Woodyard
Thea McLeod
Emma Fletcher
Louise Brady
Maria Pattison
Nadia Cowell
Who Is Playing Who?
Rachael Taylor
Alex Dimitriades
Susie Porter
Reef Ireland
Andy McPhee
Nathan Phillips
Angus Sampson
Jacki Weaver
Kate Bell
Cassandra Magrath
Bethany Whitmore
Daniel Frederiksen
Freya Stafford
Eddie Baroo
Steve Mouzakis
Pacharo Mzembe
Nick Farnell
Tony Rickards
Peter Flaherty
Finn Ireland
Uncle Ed
Dave Jnr
Run Time 108 minutes
Rated M [AUST]
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