Revisiting Parklands: a bittersweet slice of 90s Adelaide noir

Cate Blanchett in Parklands, Photo: National Film and Sound Archive / Helen Bowden

Originally published in InReview, June 2021

Starring a young Cate Blanchett in her first film role, writer/director Kathryn Millard’s  1996 film Parklands remains a surprisingly evergreen – and very Adelaide – reflection on memory and place.

The film opens with sprinklers and birdsong, shots of a lush and manicured Botanic Gardens, and a ’90s model Holden idling by. It’s all very quiet and genteel – until the Commodore bursts into flames. Something, it seems, is rotten in the state of South Australia.

Blanchett’s Rosie enters by airplane a moment later, staring out the window as it makes its descent over a skyline still capped by the Santos building. She cuts a familiar figure: another 20-something who has fled Adelaide for Sydney, only to be drawn back by a death in the family – that of her father, a policeman. An uncomfortable conversation at the wake, followed by the discovery of his old journals, sets Rosie on a slow-burning investigation into the “secrets and shadows” of his life and death.

“Adelaide’s my hometown, I moved to Sydney while this film was in development and came back to make it,” Kathryn Millard says over the phone. “I have enormous affection for Adelaide – I think you can say things about your hometown that you wouldn’t let other people say.”

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