Heavenly Creatures

Released:  1994

Cast:  Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent

Oscar Nominations:  Best Original Screenplay (Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh)

SUMMARY:  In the 1950s, the Hulme family moves to Christchurch, New Zealand.  The Hulmes have a teenage daughter, Juliet (Kate Winslet), who quickly befriends local girl Pauline Parker (Melanie Lynskey).  The two have radically different outer personalities – Juliet is beautiful and outspoken, where Pauline is shy and awkward.  However, they share a love of fantasy, and begin creating a fictional kingdom called Borovnia.  They imagine (and create figures of) the inhabitants of this country, and begin writing stories about them.  As they spend more and more time developing Borovnia, it becomes increasingly real to them.  While the girls are blissfully happy together, others are concerned with their abnormally close relationship – particularly Pauline’s mother, Honora (Sarah Peirse).  She begins to openly question her daughter’s friendship, which creates a tremendous amount of attention between the two.  To get away from this fighting with her mother, Pauline begins spending most of her time at Juliet’s house, where things are much more peaceful (and affluent).  Juliet also tells Pauline about her idea of Heaven, which she calls “the Fourth World”.  In the Fourth World, there are no Christians; instead, deceased celebrities are “saints”, and art forms are prized.  Juliet believes that she will enter the Fourth World when she dies.  She has an actual experience with this when her parents decide to go away for a trip, and leave Juliet behind.  She becomes hysterical, and eventually enters the Fourth World.  She describes this to Pauline, who becomes able to see it as well.

When Juliet develops tuberculosis, she is sent away to a clinic for a lengthy stay; without her parents (who have gone on another trip) and Pauline, Juliet is nearly beside herself.  Pauline reciprocates the feelings, and the two keep in touch through letters, in which they talk about themselves but also of Borovnia.  In time, they begin to use this world as a means to “get back” at the people they feel have wronged them – they kill them off in Borovnia.  When Juliet finally is released from the clinic, she and Pauline only get closer.  Juliet’s father notices, and talks to Pauline’s parents about it.  In turn, they send her to see a doctor, who attributes her relationship with Juliet to homosexuality.  Pauline is furious at this, and the tension between Pauline and her mother ratchets up.  Meanwhile, Juliet’s parents have decided to divorce, with both leaving Christchurch:  Juliet will go to live in South Africa.  Again, this sets off Juliet, who cannot bear to leave Pauline.  Initially, the girls decide to run away together, but they soon turn to a more chilling idea.  They believe that Pauline’s mother, Honora, is who is truly keeping them apart, and they decide they must get rid of her.  They begin to plan this murder during Juliet’s last three weeks in town, which Pauline spends at Juliet’s house.  Only a few days before she is supposed to leave, Juliet and Pauline go out to Victoria Park with Honora.  Before they leave, Juliet puts a piece of brick in a stocking and takes it with her.  During a walk in the park, when Honora falls into a trap the girls have laid, they beat her to death with the brick.  The next day, Pauline’s diary is discovered.  It contains detailed plans for the murder, and both girls are arrested.  Both are convicted and sent to prison:  when they are eventually released, it is under the condition that they never see the other again.

MY TAKE:  I had actually heard this story before I watched the movie, so I sort of knew what was going to happen.  However, that didn’t stop me from being astounded/horrified at the relationship between the girls, and what they eventually did.  It seems like a fairly good bet that both were a little disturbed, since they have these really vivid fantasies together.  I’m not sure which of them, if either, is really crazy, but they feed off each other until both are nearly delusional.  I don’t know why they decided that Pauline’s mother was the source of their problems:  it seems to me like it’s Juliet’s parents who are really the cause of the issue, as they’re getting divorced and sending Juliet away.  Honora doesn’t totally approve of the friendship, but she obviously realizes what it means to her daughter – she plans a special day for the three of them right before Juliet leaves.  Furthermore, I’m not sure how anyone could brutally kill their mother like that.  Obviously, for all their planning, the girls did not think about how to get away with the crime, since Pauline wrote everything down in her diary, but as mentioned, they’re a little off-kilter.  This film is notable not only for its subject matter, but also for the people involved in it:  it was directed by Peter Jackson, who went on to make the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies; Melanie Lynskey has had small roles, notably in Sweet Home Alabama, Up in the Air and The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the TV show Two and a Half Men (she’s the crazy downstairs neighbor that’s obsessed with Charlie Sheen).  It was also the film debut of one Kate Winslet, and we all know how she turned out.  Interestingly, although Peter Jackson did not know it when filming started, Juliet Hulme had sort of reinvented herself after she was released from prison, and became known as Anne Perry, the best-selling author of the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series.  I’m not sure if I’ve read any of her books, but they’ve got to have an amped-up creep factor.  She sure started imagining crimes at an early age.

RATING:  Fascinating.


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