- Melanie Lynskey as Pauline Parker
- Kate Winslet as Juliet Hulme
- Sarah Peirse as Honora Rieper
- Diane Kent as Hilda Hulme
- Clive Merrison as Henry Hulme
- Simon O’Connor as Herbert Rieper
In 1954 Christchurch, New Zealand, two schoolgirls, Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme shocked a nation when they murdered Pauline’s mother. The trial of the two girls became a sensational and notorious affair. From the diaries of Pauline, Peter Jackson fashions an imaginative, haunting and disturbing account of the effects of close friendship and the powers of the imagination when they become entwined with reality.
The film begins a year prior. Pauline Parker is an imaginative but shy young girl from a working-class background. Attending an all girls school, she meets Juliet Hulme, the more affluent of the two who is originally from England. The two girls soon become firm friends and bond over their imaginative thoughts, history of childhood illnesses and their love of tenor Mario Lanza. As time goes on, their friendship intensifies as they create a fantasy world, populated by their heroes from movies, literature and music. The world functions as an escape from the daily stresses of reality,:Pauline feels alienated from her family and Juliet resents her neglectful parents. The bond between the two becomes more inseparable, the first instance being when Juliet contracts tuberculosis. It is around this time that their parents begin to worry that the friendship between the two is becoming unwholesome and unhealthy. When Juliet’s parents insist on moving away, the two girls won’t listen and their plans to remain with each other result in fatal consequences.
The anchor of the film is the exemplary debut performances from Lynskey and Winslet. The two girls delightfully play off each other, Pauline scowling and silence counteracted by Juliet’s brash manner. The girls are never presented as villains, but as two girls intent on not being separated that they will go to the extreme to stop it. The supporting cast is equally as good, especially Sarah Peirse as the ill-fated mother. Through the use of Pauline’s narration from her diary, we get an insight into the minds of the girls and how the fantasy world they create becomes all to real for them. The kinetic camerawork used places us at the centre of the girls imaginative schemes, as we watch them laughing and skipping with abandon through a forest dressed in white or running to enter the gates of their fantasy world. The visual effects capture the childlike nature of the world, making their heroes into clay figures that talk to them. The use of the girls favourite tenor Mario Lanza helps creates a feeling of no cares or stress that the girls crave so much. Because of the excellent screenplay, the film effortlessly blends fantasy with reality to mirror the intense and complex relationship between Pauline and Juliet. Peter Jackson directs with a visual flair that never fails to surprise and helps fashion this dark and strange story of never-ending friendship and the fear of separation.
Dark, imaginative and at times bleak, Heavenly Creatures is a film that takes us into a fantasy world dreamt up by the girls, yet stays firmly rooted in the grim realities of life. If you haven’t seen this film based on a case that still lingers in the memories of many, I advise you to.