Set in Australia, The Eye of the Storm is the story of Elizabeth Hunter. Her imminent death brings her two grown children back home from Paris and London. The film starts strong with a sardonic wit delivered by its complex and eccentric characters. Judy Davis delivers a good performance as the ostentatious sister who is literally and metaphorically a princess, with Geoffrey Rush offsetting her cold and prissy demeanour as her capricious brother. Charlotte Rampling plays Hunter, their condescending mother whose poise and manner is as grand and opulent as the plush furnishings and finery she surrounds herself with.
Their relations are estranged, but the family tries to portray a dutiful picture, resulting in a pulse of nervous tension throughout the film. This is somewhat lightened by Rush’s character and his mischievous antics with one of his mother’s nurses, which reveals a coarseness as well as a naïve vulnerability to his character. The standout performance comes from Alexandra Schepisi as the young nurse Flora, who tries to woo Rush. It is a coy performance, slowly developing to reveal a desperate and lonely young woman.
The linear story and inevitable conclusion make the film move slowly and its sombreness adds to the increasingly sedate tone, as the film is caught up in its own morbidity, emphasising its self-centred players. It is a mark of good writing and strong performances that the characters never become irritating or unsympathetic.
The film’s pace drags its feet as the inevitable, literal storm of the title waits to break. The build up of the storm is reflected in the mounting tension between the characters. This causes the middle of the story to sag, but as the storm finally breaks, the film rolls out its conclusion and ties the story together – helped again by the strength of its fine actors, as well as its simple yet effective imagery.