MCC231 Australian Cinema
Assignment 2: Critical Review and Bibliography

Sophie Norfolk

The Caterpillar Wish

Runtime: 100 minutes
Country: Australia
Language: English
Certification: M, for moderate course language, moderate themes, moderate violence


Director: Susan Sciberras
Producer: Kate Whitbread
Screenplay: Susan Sciberras
Cinematography: Greig Fraser
Original Music: Burkhard Van Dallwitz
Editor: Jason Ballantine
Production Manager: Sally Clarke
Production Design: Robert Webb
Costume Design: Jodie Fried


Victoria Thaine ... Emily Woodbridge
Susie Porter ... Susan Woodbridge
Robert Mammone ... Stephen Knight
Khan Chittenden ... Joel Roberts
Phillip Quast ... Carl Roberts
Wendy Hughes ... Elizabeth Roberts
Will Traeger ... Ewan Roberts
Elspeth Ballantyne ... Mrs. Woodbridge
Brice Myles ... Mr. Woodbridge
Nicholas Bell ... Father Caleb

Production Companies
Best FX (Boom Sound)
South Australian Film

Other Companies
Cameraquip Australia
The Australian Film Commission
Angela Heesom Castings
Digital Pictures Melbourne
Fusion Enterprises Pty. Ltd
South Australian Film

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2007), Australia
Palace Films

Release Dates
Australia-- 7 April 2006 (Sydney Seniors Film Festival)
Australia-- 3 June 2006 (Robe South Australia) Film Premiere
Australia-- 8 June 2006
Hungary-- 24 October 2007 (TV Premiere)


Budget: $AUD 1, 400, 000

Gross Box Office Take:
$AUD 456, 018 (Australia, 1st October 2006
$AUD 262, 805 (Australia, 18 June, 2006
$AUD 159, 364 (Australia, 12th June, 2006)
$AUD 126, 287 (Australia, 11 June, 2006)

Production Dates:2005-2006
Filming Dates:20th June 2005-10 July 2005

AWARDS (all 2006)

(won) AFI Award-Best Supporting Actress: Susie Porter
(won) IF Award-Best Production Design: Robert Webb

Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA)
(nominated) FCCA--Best Actress in a lead role- Victoria Thaine
(nominated) FCCA--Best Actress in a Supporting Role-Susie Porter
(nominated) FCCA--Best Original Screenplay


ABC Tasmania
Jonathan Dawson, 10/7/06, Accessed 11/4/08
. The Caterpillar Wish adds yet another version to that apparently endless set of
middle class tales of poetically-yearning young folks waiting to turn into butterflies

At The Movies
Margaret Pomeranz, David Stratton 7/7/06, Accessed 11/4/08
. perhaps the film ties things up a bit too neatly at the end, but resolutions are
made, truths are told and believed.

The Blurb
David Edwards (undated) Accessed 12/4/08
. an affecting and gentle film that relies heavily on the strength of its characters

Stephen Groenewegen 6/8/06, Accessed 11/4/08
. Sciberras brings out the warmth and naturalness of the characters and setting, but not the
earthiness or grit.

The Film Pie
Matthew Toomey (undated), Accessed 11/4/
. more a drama than a thriller but its intriguing story will keep you thinking to its conclusion

Review by Mark Lavercombe, 16/5/06, Accessed 11/4/08
. Sandra Sciberras' second feature is a beautifully shot and brilliantly performed drama, and, like
several recent Australasian titles, features a standout performance by a young actress in the lead role.

Media Culture
Tim Milfull, 3/6/06 , Accessed 11/4/08
. Porters eyes blaze, narrow, smile and cloud over and its a treat to watch; in foreign countries
inaccurate subtitles wouldnt matter a damn. Porters eyes tell us everything we need to know and she makes
The Caterpillar Wish her own.

Media Culture
Swirley, 3/6/08, Accessed 12/4/08
. Caterpillar Wish gives a fresh perspective on adolescence, offering hope and natural wisdom of the
heart in place of the typical teenager representing conflict in dramas

Movie Fix
Mark Beirne, Kerry Bashford (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
. Victoria Thaine is a revelation as Emily, whose innocence is offset by her inquisitive nature
Colin Fraser (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
. distinguished by excellent cinematography (German)
(Undated) Accessed 11/4/08

Sydney Morning Herald
Sandra Hall 7/7/06, Accessed 12/4/08
. It's a slight theme, which means that ambience is everything, as writer-director Sandra Sciberras seems to
realise, for she does a lot with orange sunsets, together with the hard-edged clarity of winter sunshine against
lowering skies and the long shadows cast by the town's beachside stands of Norfolk pines

Triple J-ABC
Andrew L. Urban, Louise Keller (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
. art house cinema, full of visually striking interstitials - close ups of water and objects or elements
that surround the characters
Russell Edwards (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
. the script is as creaky as the seaside wooden houses the characters inhabit


The Caterpillar Wish (2006) Special Edition DVD, Copyright Palace Films DVD Special Features
-Behind The Scenes, 20 minutes interview with:

Director, Sandra Sciberras
Producer, Kate Whitbread

CAST: Victoria Thaine
Susie Porter
Phillip Quast
Wendy Hughes
Khan Chittenden

At The Movies
(online video) David Stratton 7/6/06 Accessed 11/4/08
Duration: 3:41 minutes
Interview with The Caterpillar Wish Director-Sandra Sciberras, Actors Susie Porter and Victoria Thaine.

Australian Film Commission
(text interview) (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
Director, Sandra Sciberras, on the making of The Caterpillar Wish, and being first film to be funded by the Australian Film Commission's
IndiVision Project Lab

The Age-Desperately Seeking Susie
(text interview) John Mangan 28/5/08 Accessed 11/4/08
Desperately Seeking Susie- online newspaper interview with Actress, Susie Porter

The Blurb-Wish you were here
(text interview) David Edwards (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
Wish you were here-Director, Sandra Sciberras and Actress, Victoria Thaine talk about The Caterpillar Wish

InFilm Australia-Wish for a Wish
(text interview /article) Luke Buckmaster 6/06 Accessed 11/4/08
Wish for a Wish- interview/article with Director, Sandra Sciberras and Producer, Kate Whitbread

Paul Rankin-The Redcoat is coming
(online text interview) Paul Rankin (undated) Accessed 11/4/08
The Redcoat is coming-interview with Actress, Victoria Thaine


The Caterpillar Wish is a low-budget Australian film, so outside of Australian websites and publications, it is relatively unknown. Online, there is a great deal of plot outlines and as opposed to reviews, and often, these reviews can be found internally from a smaller, related website dedicated to film. The Caterpillar Wish was the first film funded by IndiVision Project Lab, an initiative part of the Australian Film Commission to assist the production of low-budget films. This increased the online presence, as information about the film could be found throughout the AFC website. In terms of acquiring box office information, the Internet Movie Database ( was the most prominent source, with the slight exception of the Australian Classification Board. Aside from these websites, it was quite difficult to find any other sources relating to budget and box office statistics. There are very minimal publications outside of the Internet, aside from a small number of newspaper and magazine reviews, which were found online using the search archives. When searching for information on The Caterpillar Wish, many search engines displayed sites relevant to pest control, and a childrens book entitled Caterpillars Wish. Although the film is relatively small scale and produced on a low budget, there is enough information when looking internally through separate websites, and not relying in the search engines. The majority of reviews and information are small, but there is enough for it to be known amongst the Australian film community

CRITICAL REVIEW-The Caterpillar Wish


You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present (Jan Glidewell).

Past and the present are two major themes that create solid ground for the basis of Sandra Sciberrass 2006 film, The Caterpillar Wish. Set in Robe, a sea side town in South Australia where the cold never seems to disappear, the film centers around seventeen year old Emily Woodbridge (played by Victoria Thaine), and a group of characters that are burdened by their past, which in turn, hinders their progression into the future. Not unlike a large majority of people her age, Emily is probing her identity, trying to understand aspects of the past that have been kept from her. Emily lives with her mother Susan (Susie Porter), and has no idea of her fathers whereabouts, or whom he is, only knowing he was a tourist passing through the town. Susan works in a topless bar, and has a history of encountering many problems with the opposite sex. As a result, she frequently involves herself in casual sex with men she has no interest in, to reduce the risk of experiencing any real feelings. Evident contrasts in personality between Emily and Susan create tension, as Emily is keen to push forward rather than grip to secrets of the past. Along with personality, there is also contrast to the perceived normal family life and social values, which provide conflict throughout the plot as Emily and her mother are looked down upon by various other characters.

The absence of Emily's father becomes the motivation to her own quest for identity, along with the discovery of a bible from Susans estranged parents. This motivation causes conflict with other characters, such as Emilys boyfriend Joel, who keeps their relationship a secret, as his family would not approve. Ironically, Joels father is the local policeman, who has a fascination with schoolgirls, and with being unfaithful to his wife, Elizabeth. Another important character is Stephen, Elizabeths brother, who acts as somewhat of a father figure to Emily, resulting in her attempt to enforce a relationship between Stephen and her mother. This endeavor to play cupid only exasperates the situation, as Stephen cannot seem to escape the past, dealing with the deaths of his wife and baby daughter. Throughout the progression of the plot, Emily becomes a beacon for change, and somewhat of a catalyst to the other characters, encouraging their own understanding of their identity, and the possibilities that are being prevented from living in the past.

The Caterpillar Wish is a film about identity, and one that adheres to and also challenges typical ideals of youth versus adulthood. The character of Emily is nave, but at the same time, has an aura of wisdom that is more useful than the cynicism evident throughout the adult characters. They are scared to move forward, and sometimes even deny events that are happening in the present, forcing them to retreat back to the past. The Caterpillar Wish draws special attention to the cinematography, with each shot and location deliberately contributing to the particular mood of the plot. Although the film tackles much conflict and tension throughout the plot, it isnt done in a way that is thrilling or shocking to the audience. The Caterpillar Wish takes on a more gentle approach, which is arguably reflecting reality in the sense that not every conflict needs explosions and the visible destruction of character. The film will be enjoyed and appreciated for its location and attention to detail, as the cinematography is one of the most successful aspects alone. Along with the construction of the characters, the underlying message in the film is one that is very relevant to modern society, as the fear of change is something that rings true for a large majority. The Caterpillar Wish is a very pleasing film, which delicately deals with themes that are relative to an audience (particular female), such as identity, as it is something that is questionable to everyone at some stage in their life.

Critical Uptake

The Caterpillar Wish has received mixed reviews from critics and viewers alike. The majority of reviews had a number of positive aspects, including praise for cinematography and lead characterization, but many criticized the film for its ending. A large number of people were disappointed, and stated that the plot had great potential, but fizzled at the highest point of tension, resulting in an anti climax that damaged the films reputation. On the other hand, the film won two awards, an AFI for Best Supporting Actress (Susie Porter), and an IF award for Best Production Design (Robert Webb), and was nominated for an additional four. Aside from the fact that The Caterpillar Wish was quite highly acclaimed in the Australian independent film industry, it received little mainstream attention, only being released three times in Australia, and once in Hungary on television in 2007, the only recorded international release date. The film grossed AUD $126, 287 in its first weekend in June, and made a total gross of just over AUD $ 1 Million, not far over its initial budget.

Caterpillar Wish had relatively low international success when compared to other Australian independent films released in 2006 such as Kenny (directed by Clayton Jacobson), and The Book of Revelation (Anna Kokkinos). The fact that Caterpillar Wish was a low budget film, and the first Australian film to be funded by the IndiVision Project Lab (an AFC funding initiative), could possibly be an explanation for its lack of mainstream attention. Despite this, the film has been generally well received by industry standards, but has not been a contender for major international success.

Director: Sandra Sciberras

The Caterpillar Wish is the second film from writer and director, Sandra Sciberras. Her debut film entitled Deeper Than Blue (also known as Maxs Dreaming), was released in 2003, and is relatively small scale. Before her directorial appearance, Sciberras crewed on the 1997 local release, Idiot Box (directed by David Caesar) and was production runner on set of Aleksi Velliss 2000 production of The Wog Boy, which was very successful particularly in Australia, and in the USA.

Although The Caterpillar Wish has not earned Sciberras any major international success, she has become relatively well known in the Australian independent film industry. There is no information about any film she is currently working on, but she will definitely be an interest to the film community if she is to direct another production. Sciberras has received praise for her attention to characterization and their relationships between each other, particularly the female characters in Caterpillar Wish.

Caterpillar Wish producer Kate Whitbread has also worked with Sciberras in Deeper Than Blue as producer along with playing the role of a character by the name of Audrey. Cinematographer, Greig Fraser, has previously won an AFI award for best cinematography in 2005, and a Flickerfest International Short Film Festival award in the same category in 2004. He is well known and highly regarded throughout the Australian film industry, and has worked on a number of both short, and feature length films

The Caterpillar Wish in relation to Genre and Australian Cinema

In terms of genre, The Caterpillar Wish is not subjective to one major type. Although commonly classified as a drama, the film incorporates many considered Australian film types such as social realism, melodrama, womens film and even the art film. It isnt uncommon that these genres work together, as they appear in a large proportion of Australian films, possibly because of budget restrictions in comparison to a Hollywood blockbuster.

A dominating theme in Caterpillar Wish is family conflict. Because of the way our society is constructed, there are certain expectations and values placed on family life that often cause many problems if not adhered to, including not being accepted by others, even being looked down upon which is very much the case in The Caterpillar Wish. This is significant to a melodrama, as films in this category often elevate a large variety of problems that are relative to society values. The womens film is also a rather noticeable genre in Caterpillar Wish, as the characters and issues that are dealt with are of interest particularly to a female audience. Gillard discussed the womens film and the fact that working with low budgets and small casts, and shooting on location, tends to result in human interest stories focusing on individuals and families(2007, 61). This is very appropriate to Sciberras film, as the main focus is on character development, and matching the locations with the overall disposition. The aesthetics of The Caterpillar Wish are responsible for incorporating aspects of the art genre, because the cinematography and attention to detail in relation to locations, plays an important role in telling the story. The art cinema developed a range of mise-en-scene cues for expressing character mood: static postures, covert glances, smiles that fade, aimless walks, emotion-filled landscapes, and associated objects (Gillard, 2007, 135). It can also be said that these aspects of the art film work successfully with the conflict that is being dealt with in the plot, such as the characters search for identity, and the confusion about their direction in life, and family circumstance. The Caterpillar Wish is a family melodrama that tackles common social issues, by using artistic visuals to communicate the tensions that are experienced by the characters, as they question their identity, and struggle to let go of the past.

The Caterpillar Wish is an appealing film to an Australian audience, particularly a younger female demographic because of the relational social construct of the characters, and the gentle way in which the plot unfolds. The location, Robe, in South Australia, gives the film a sense of locality, and draws attention to a familiar small town lifestyle. The film is significant to Australian cinema because it was the first Australian film to be funded by the AFCs IndiVision Project Lab, the first of many to come based on the local success in the film industry, which therefore makes The Caterpillar Wish a successful low budget, independent Australian film.



Bordwell, David. and Thompson, Kristin. 2004. Film Art: an Introduction. 7th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Moran, A, and Errol Veith. 2006. Film In Australia. New York. Cambridge University Press.

Gillard, G. 2007. Ten Types of Australian Film. Murdoch. Murdoch University


Australian Classification Board. 2008. The Classification Board. Online. April 12, 2008).

Australian Film Commission. 2008. IndiVision Project Lab. Online. (accessed April 12, 2008)

Australian Film Institute.2008. AFI Awards. Online. (accessed April 12, 2008)

The Caterpillar Wish. 2006. Feature Film Official Website. Online. (accessed April 11, 2008).

The Internet Movie Database. 1990-2008. The Caterpillar Wish. Online. (accessed April 11, 2008).

Palace Films. 2008. Palace Films. Online. (accessed April 11, 2008).

A critical review by Sophie Norfolk