2017, dir: Saara Lamberg
Tuuli (Saara Lamberg), anxious to escape her oppressive, abusive childhood and adolescence, leaves her remote village in Finland and travels to Melbourne, Australia to start a new life. As part of her journey to find herself she wears brightly coloured wigs and nail polish, gets tattooed and acquires an eclectic hipster-approved wardrobe. She volunteers to pose as an art model in a further attempt of self-liberation. However, despite her inner city chic appearance, Tuuli is socially awkward, unworldly and ignorant or unaware of others feelings and needs. Being raised in a God-fearing family and isolated from society in an almost Amish-like environment has stunted her emotional development. Tuuli gets by though, as the hipsters and artists who flock to her see these traits as part of her ‘quirkiness’. She meets Ben (Brendan Bacon), a rough-edged but laid back artist/hippy/stoner and quickly moves in with him. It isn’t long before a disturbing other side of Tuuli begins to emerge. Underneath Tuuli’s kooky girl persona is very unbalanced woman. Delusions of grandeur, triggers, past traumas and homicidal urges cause her to act out in unexpected, alarming ways. Tuuli reveals bits and pieces of her background to Ben, but still remains an enigma. The obedient, angelic twin sister adored by her parents. The brutal father who tells her ‘she belongs to Satan’. The cold, distant mother who calls her a whore. The key to the mystery lies in Tuuli’s past. But will Ben find it before events spiral out of control?
Innuendo is director/producer/writer/actress Saara Lamberg’s debut feature film. And what a triumph of moviemaking it is! Lamberg has helmed all four roles seamlessly with gusto, weaving together what is arguably one of the best Australian independent releases in years. The intriguing, immersive and clever story had me captivated from beginning to end, with enough unexpected happenings and twists to constantly keep me on my toes. Lamberg’s performance as Tuuli is hypnotic, captivating, at times jaw-dropping, and quite simply, brilliant. She does a tremendous job at bringing an incredibly complex character to life effectively. Brendan Bacon contrasts beautifully with Lamberg as the rugged, affable Ben who becomes increasingly befuddled as Tuuli begins to lose her grip on reality. Accomplished cinematography gives Innuendo a polished, occasionally dreamlike, look. For those who’ve lived the ‘shared household’ experience on a limited budget, the set design conveys this in a knowingly realistic manner with lots of cosy clutter, mismatched second-hand furnishings and stacks of unwashed dishes.
A wonderfully unique dark psychological thriller, Innuendo is a prime example of the high quality output emerging from the uber-talented new wave of young Australian filmmakers. Saara Lamberg is definitely a name to watch out for, both behind and in front of the camera.