In her directorial debut Dorthe Scheffmann, Vermilion is a drama following a group of New Zealand woman. Primarily following Darcy, an older woman recently diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in the lead up to her daughter’s wedding. It’s an honest and quite heart-felt film about how to come to terms with tragedy and how it impacts the lives of those around you. This review does have a spoiler in the latter half.
The cast is stellar. The acting is really good, and quite natural. Led by kiwi acting royalty Jennifer Ward-Leland (Full Frontal) among some other great stars, the acting is what really pushes the film into being good. The way they portray their grief and happiness I found to be incredibly raw and real, and I really enjoyed watching the performances. The dynamic between the characters was really good, and each relationship was given its moment. Even a side character, (not sure if he’s a husband or brother) has a moment which shows his own characterisation, even though he’s on screen for a total of maybe 5 minutes.
What I really enjoyed about the film was the focus and the pace. Instead of focusing purely on the terminal brain tumour diagnosis, that aspect takes a back seat, alongside the wedding of Darcy’s daughter Zoe. Instead, at the forefront of the film is the relationships between the women. It’s a unique mix of characters, each getting their own moment to shine and show how the knowledge that their friend is dying impacts them. With some really tear-jerking heartfelt moments between each of them it shapes how the message of the film is shown.
I actually really liked the pace, and I know some may feel it’s a bit slow. But I liked how the cancer diagnosis and wedding took a back seat and you were unsure of how time was progressing. Each scene felt like it was the right piece for that moment in the story, and none of them felt unnecessary.
Now I understand that I’ve praised the film, and you’re probably like, “Kenna, I see this has a 7 out of 10, but all you’ve done is say good things, why isn’t it a 10?”. Well, I did enjoy this film, it was a nice casual watch for my Monday night after work screening. It is a good film, but it doesn’t stand out particularly. My point is, it wasn’t great. It’s simply good, and not a film I’d watch again. I think one reason why I liked it so much is because it doesn’t challenge your thoughts, doesn’t make you think particularly hard. You can vege out and enjoy it. I saw it the week I had a huge university assignment due and my head was spinning, and it was a nice way to unwind before getting back into life. Which is why I’ve given it a 7.
You see, and this is a spoiler for the latter half of the film. Darcy is a self-admitted control freak, and investigates euthanasia options, and ultimately decided to die while her daughter is on her honeymoon. In case this missed you, euthanasia is currently illegal in New Zealand. In the film, this point is done so quietly and quickly that you barely notice it, in fact, I’m 100% convinced that Darcy’s ‘boyfriend’ who isn’t named until the end was only around so she could have a link to this option. I really think that if there was a little more to this point, more focus, more screen time it would have changed the film and the message would have been so much clearer. The euthanasia aspect is something done so subtly, that even another conversation in the film and it could have been another Third Star (Incredible movie with a very similar theme, I cry every time, watch.it.)
The message of the film is powerful. The acting is incredible, the scenery beautiful and the relationships between the characters were very truthful. It’s a good film. But I think more focus on the euthanasia aspect would have made the message clearer, the film more dramatic and the gravity of Darcy’s decision to be really seen and felt by the audience. I enjoyed the film, it just wasn’t one I think is worthy of being great.