Beautiful Kate

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Beautiful Kate
Beautiful Kate.jpg
Theatrical film poster
Directed by Rachel Ward
Produced by
Screenplay by Rachel Ward
Based on Beautiful Kate 
by Newton Thornburg
Music by
Cinematography Andrew Commis
Edited by Veronika Jenet
Distributed by Roadshow Entertainment
Release dates
  • 6 August 2009 (2009-08-06)
Running time
101 minutes[1]
Country Australia
Language English
Box office $1 million[2]

Beautiful Kate is a 2009 Australian drama film directed by Rachel Ward and starring Ben Mendelsohn, Rachel Griffiths, Bryan Brown, Maeve Dermody and Sophie Lowe. Ward adapted the script from a 1982 novel of the same name by Newton Thornburg; this was the first novel by Thornburg used for a movie since Cutter's Way (1981). The film was shot on location in the Flinders Ranges.

The film premiered in June 2009 at the Sydney Film Festival and was released in limited release across Australia on 6 August 2009.[3]


A writer, Ned Kendall (Ben Mendelsohn), is returning to the remote and isolated family home inhabited by his sister Sally (Rachel Griffiths), to say goodbye to his father, Bruce (Bryan Brown), who is dying. Ned also brings his fiancee, Toni (Maeve Dermody), who has trouble getting used to the isolation and harshness of rural Australia.

Ned starts reliving memories of his childhood, many involving his beautiful twin sister Kate (Sophie Lowe) and his older brother Cliff (Josh McFarlane). These memories awaken long-buried secrets from the family's past. He begins writing, and his fiance reads that he had an awkward sexual encounter with Kate, and leaves him without giving him a chance to explain.

Kate continues to entice Ned despite his obvious revulsion, and after a drunken night out with friends, the young Ned (Scott O'Donnell) goes for a swim in the family dam. He is joined by Kate, who seduces and subsequently has sex with him on the banks of the dam. Ned shows immediate remorse while Kate remains unperturbed.

After Ned's refusal to have further sexual relations with Kate, Kate instigates a fight between the brothers by suggesting that Ned made unwanted advances towards her. As punishment, Bruce makes Ned accompany Kate to the Christmas dance. During the dance, Ned leaves Kate, who is left to go home with Cliff. Ned leaves separately and on his way home he finds his sister's dead body in Cliff's crashed car, and then finds that Cliff has hanged himself.

Fearing that Ned will tell Bruce the truth about Kate, Sally reveals that she knew of Ned and Kate's secret. She also reveals that the car's clock stopped on impact of the crash and no one could figure out what took Kate and Cliff so long to get home from the dance. Sally speculates that Kate also had sexual relations with Cliff, who then crashed the car in which Kate died. She tells Ned she believes that Cliff's guilt from his part in Kate's death was multiplied knowing he had committed incest. But Bruce still believes that Kate was an innocent victim, the best of his children, and she doesn't want him shattered with the truth.

Ned then makes amends with Bruce and says that he is sorry for blaming him over Cliff's suicide. He doesn't tell Bruce the truth about Kate and lets him die still believing that Kate was everything he thought she was. Before he leaves, he tells Sally that Bruce died never knowing that she was his greatest achievement.



Box office[edit]

Beautiful Kate was released in 29 theaters in Australia and grossed $1,065,656 at the box office.[4]Until the debut of the Paul Hogan-starring Charlie & Boots in early September, Beautiful Kate held the title of the largest opening weekend for an Australian film for 2009.[5]

Critical response[edit]

The film holds an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews with an average rating of 6.8 out of 10.[6] Beautiful Kate received four and a half stars from both Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton on At The Movies.[7] Sandra Hall of The Sydney Morning Herald rated it four and a half stars out of five and wrote, "At times the action slows to the point where escape seems the most enticing option. Don't take it, for Ward's tough-minded and uniquely Australian version of Southern Gothic does reward your perseverance by at last making you care."[8] Richard Kuipers of Variety called it "a visually beautiful and emotionally rewarding study of a dying patriarch and his estranged son".[9] Megan Lehmann of The Hollywood Reporter described it as "a provocative slice of Southern Gothic refried Aussie-style".[10] Frank Hatherley of Screen Daily wrote that it is a "handsome and intense love story" that is "awash with Ward's own spiky, brittle dialogue, delivered with relish by her cast".[11] Philip French of The Guardian wrote, "The film is well acted but both blunt and awkward."[12] Also writing in The Guardian, Steve Rose rated it two out of four stars and said that it "doesn't do a great deal wrong, but despite broaching taboo subjects, feels too arthouse-by-numbers".[13]


Award Category Subject Result
AACTA Awards
(2009 AFI Awards)
Best Film Bryan Brown Nominated
Leah Churchill-Brown Nominated
Best Direction Rachel Ward Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Actor Ben Mendelsohn Nominated
Best Actress Sophie Lowe Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Bryan Brown Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maeve Dermody Nominated
Rachel Griffiths Won
Best Cinematography Andrew Commis Nominated
Australian Cinematographers Society Cinematographer of the Year Won
Golden Tripod Won
ADG Award Best Direction in a Feature Film Rachel Ward Nominated
ASE Award Best Editing on a Feature Film Veronika Jenet Nominated
FCCA Awards Best Film Bryan Brown Nominated
Leah Churchill-Brown Nominated
Best Director Rachel Ward Nominated
Best Actor — Male Ben Mendelsohn Nominated
Best Supporting Actor — Male Bryan Brown Won
Best Supporting Actor — Female Maeve Dermody Nominated
Rachel Griffiths Won
Sophie Lowe Nominated
Best Cinematography Andrew Commis Nominated
Best Music Score Tex Perkins Nominated
Inside Film Awards Best Direction Rachel Ward Nominated
Best Cinematography Andrew Commis Won
Best Editing Veronika Jenet Nominated
Palm Springs International Film Festival New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize Rachel Ward Nominated
Sydney Film Festival Best Film Nominated

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The Rachel papers" by Eddie Cockrell, The Australian (23 May 2009)
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Box office: Charlie & Boots breaks $800K" by Brendan Swift, Inside, 7 September 2009
  6. ^ "Beautiful Kate Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Review on At the Movies (ABC)
  8. ^ Hall, Sandra (6 August 2009). "Beautiful Kate". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  9. ^ Kuipers, Richard (21 June 2009). "Review: 'Beautiful Kate'". Variety. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Lehmann, Megan (10 September 2009). "Beautiful Kate -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  11. ^ Hatherley, Frank (16 June 2009). "Beautiful Kate". Screen Daily. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  12. ^ French, Philip (31 July 2010). "Beautiful Kate". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Rose, Steve (29 July 2010). "Beautiful Kate". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 

External links[edit]