Review: The Dressmaker

Review: The Dressmaker

 Sewing together a murder

The Dressmaker, Universal Pictures

Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, and Liam Hemsworth

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Producer: Sue Maslin

Screenplay: Jocelyn Moorhouse & P.J. Hogan

Based on the book by Rosalie Ham


Tilly Dunnage returns to the remote town of Dunagatar, in rural Australia. This riles up the residents who believe her to be a murderer. The details of this and her childhood, are a mystery to Tilly and her outcast mother Molly. Using her Parisian dressmaking skills, she wins over some of the quirky townsfolk in an effort to unlock the past. Intrigue and tragedy follows in her wake, as Dunagatar will never be the same.

This enchanting tale of revenge and redemption is unique and certainly worth a watch.


Director, Jocelyn Moorhouse, is not afraid of embracing the darkness of the source material. An enchanting tale, indeed, but this is a tale of murder, after all.  That being said, the film does not indulge in guts and gore. Instead it aims for a bitter-sweet register that both lifts the spirits right after crushing it.

This is something I responded to: art creates meaning through emotion. This film certainly achieves this.


The characters are vivid and just enough information is given to suggest rich backstories beyond the plot (something that I like a lot). This kind of rich writing has the added bonus of creating potential murder suspects. The quirkiness lends a colour to the film that puts one in mind of Burton at his best.

Story is created by characters growing and changing. The daughter and mother combination go through the most significant change (them being the main characters and all). This is done in a clear way that summons the sympathies of the audience – before you know it, you’re rooting for even Mad Molly and the cross-dressing policeman.

Final remarks

In terms of acting, Kate Winslet is brilliant (as usual). The supporting cast does an amazing job of holding their own. Weaving and Davis have particular standout performances. Cinematographically speaking, the film is framed beautifully. Wide, dusty shots, put one in mind of Luhrmann’s Australia.


Based on the story alone, this film delights with twists, secrets, and – most prominently – charm. While it can’t be described as a “feel-good-movie”, it leaves the audience with a feeling of redemption and just desserts. This is a must-see!


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