Review: The Dressmaker

REVIEW | Mark Hadley
Monday 9 November 2015

Like the rest of us, identity is important to Tilly (Kate Winslet). Having been accused of murder as a child, she’s spent her life wrestling with whether that’s true. In The Dressmaker, a strange yet strong Australian films, adult Tilly returns to her small home-town desperate to discover who she is.

Featuring an excellent Australian cast, sumptuous locations and visuals, Tilly’s tale is a bizarre blend of comedy, tragedy, graphic violence and fairytale. Director Jocelyn Moorhouse does a splendid job of juggling the wild variations in tone and content. Such shifts will irritate many viewers but The Dressmaker‘s outlandish storytelling indicates how we can be all over the place when answering the question that plagues Tilly: Who am I?

Identifying ourselves is a big deal. Our self-esteem, purpose and outlook on life are shaped by how we view and describe ourselves. The Dressmaker masterfully reveals Tilly’s identity is a jumbled mess. Her unresolved history of abuse and blame stop her from clarifying who she is.

Christians have their identity grounded in being a devoted follower of Jesus Christ (as 1 Corinthians 11:1 indicates). Yet, like someone who has no affiliation with Jesus, that isn’t always the prime source of identity. Instead, various things can be turned to. Occupation? Marital status? Sporting team? Hobby? Political party? Murderer?

Such things inform who a Christian is, but they always play second fiddle to Jesus. That status should provide joy and relief. As Tilly painfully demonstrates, tying our identity to other things is a recipe for discontent and uncertainty. Identity in Jesus is reliable, unchanging and purposeful.

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