Peter Jackson's remarkable film tells the true crime story of Pauline Parker, 16, and Juliet Hulme, 15, two schoolgirls who beat Pauline's mother to death with bricks wrapped in stockings after visiting a tea shop with her in Canterbury, New Zealand. The motive: Pauline and Juliet were about to be separated and they believed that the murder would keep them together forever. For some reason, they chose the parent with the least amount of power: Juliet's parents were the chief proponents of the move. At their 1954 trial in Christchurch, they were sentenced to be detained "until Her Majesty's pleasure be made known." Parker was 20 and Hulme was 19 when they were released in 1958, but they had been forbidden contact with each other since their arrest.
The Express (a British tabloid) finally found Parker after a diligent search, but the identity of Hulme was revealed directly after "Heavenly Creatures"' release. As mystery writer Anne Perry, she had established an international following. Perry did say, that as a result of a serious illness, she had been prescribed mind-altering drugs which might have unduly influenced her actions at the time of the murder. Jackson takes the girls back in time a couple of years before the trial, when Parker was fourteen and Hulme was thirteen. They get caught up in a wild fantasy life, not too dissimilar from the teenaged protagonists of 1964's "The World of Henry Orient." And it does look like quite a lot of fun, until it gets out of hand. Because of their extreme youth, it's hard to say whether the two girls were actually lesbians as their parents feared or were just great friends play acting anything & everything in sight. When Hulme becomes ill and must go to hospital for her health, their association becomes obsessive. Could this murder have been prevented? Jackson mostly concerns himself with the friends & their interior world which he renders in a very appealing, non-judgmental way. Melanie Lynskey looks just like old newsphotos of Pauline & Kate Winslet became a first-time Oscar nominee in 1995 for "Sense and Sensibility."
© 2005 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 10/5/05
UK/Germany/New Zealand - 1994