Another Jane Campion film, this time her directorial debut, with the story of the dysfunctional relationship between two sisters. Sweetie is the obsessive, demanding, and coddled sister who is the catalyst for all family dynamics, but the story is really about how the other characters deal and interact with her. Quirky and offbeat, this film shows the beginnings of Campion’s immense talent. [nz, 1989]

angel at my table

Jane Campion’s film is based on the true story of New Zealand’s most famous poet Janet Frame. As a child the awkward, shy, yet insightful Janet didn’t fit in which lead her to being misdiagnosed as schizophrenic, and committed to a psychiatric hospital where she endured electric shock “therapy.” However, Janet endured, was finally released and began winning poetry awards and international acclaim. Although ultimately uplifting this film is quite heavy in places, and is quite long since it was originally a television series. Make sure you’re prepared to spend the time and emotional effort when you see it. [nz, 1990]

the piano

Jane Campion proves she’s one of the decade’s premiere directors in her literate and richly layered movie about cultural conflict, repression, art, and, the role of women in the 19th century. Holly Hunter plays a mute Scotswoman, piano player, and mail-order bride who finds herself repelled by her stolid husband but intensely attracted to the Maori wilderness in which she finds herself. Her expressive face more than makes up for her lack of words, and Anna Paquin, as her on-the brink of adolescence daughter is a real find. [nz, 1993]