[Film review] Palm Beach

Directed by Rachel Ward, Palm Beach depicts long-term friendships between three couples reuniting, with their several grown children, for the birthday of one of them: Frank (Bryan Brown). 

Frank’s conspicuous success in merchandising has allowed him and his wife, Charlotte (Greta Scacchi), to host the celebration at their exquisitely beautiful home, which overlooks a magnificent, pristine harbour.

The friends gather, with Billy (Richard E. Grant) and his wife, Eva (Heather Mitchell), travelling from England, and Leo (Sam Neill) and his wife, Bridget (Jaqueline McKenzie), crossing the Tasman from New Zealand.

Initially it’s all friendly sharing of memories from their lives as young men in the spotlight, fun swimming and enjoying the sunshine and catching up with one another’s offspring, who show all the signs of seeing life and their futures in the same optimistic way that their parents once did. But as time passes, the friends are unable to keep entirely hidden some unhappy truths and private difficulties, and secrets, resentments, jealousies, and competitiveness leak out.

With a stellar cast, this superbly acted film will take many on a nostalgic and, in some ways, familiar journey of the maturation and hazards of friendships from our youth. Using a setting that underscores the opportunities that life has offered them, the tale explores the lines between self-interest, familial love, and deep friendships and emerges — after the dust settles — with a satisfying conclusion.

Its more poignant moments, in revealing some of the challenges faced by all who find themselves suddenly at retirement age, make it an entertaining film to share with anybody for its interesting exploration of relationships.

MICHELE E. HAWKINS

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