Heavenly Creatures – the movie

I watched Heavenly Creatures on Hulu.com last night. Yes, I know now that it came out in 1994 and was nominated for an Academy award. I’m not much of a movie person, honestly. Seeing Peter Jacksons name roll up in the credits did reassure me that this was a worthy way to spend a couple of hours, though.

I am a psychological thriller crime person. And this story, from the summary, intrigued me. It is closely based on the actual crime, called the Parker-Hulme murder in Christchurch, New Zealand. Peter Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh decided to focus on the intense friendship (I’d call it a relationship, since it becomes clear that they were lovers) between the girls and how something that should have been a positive part of their lives went horribly wrong.

Which is something that I am also very interested in. All the ways that love and friendship turn into murder and mayhem. I was particularly interested in this story because even at first glance it seems to have some parallels with the novellete I am currently writing, Catalyst (former working title “Silent”).

In the movie, and in my book, the girls are lesbian lovers whose intense relationship leads to the death of those who would come between them. And there the resemblance ends.

Heavenly Creatures does a beautiful and graceful job of recreating the girls’ relationship. It is easy to see how happy they make each other, how close they become, and how each becomes the others one ray of sunlight in a world that does not seem to love or appreciate them.

I could easily identify especially with Pauline. I was a very angry young teen myself, who deeply and desperately hated my mother. And yes, I actually did spend a good deal of time – very early in my own life – considering ways that I could kill her. One reason I did not was because I saw several cases (I was a newspaper junkie and crime hound even then) where the press and public vilified children who killed their parents – no matter what the cause may have been. They still do. I concluded killing my mother wouldn’t do me much good if I spent my life hated and in jail. I decided to kill myself instead. (That’s a whole nother story, and obviously I haven’t killed myself – please don’t inundate me with sympathy and “don’t do it” messages – okay? Thanks)

Juliet is such the proverbial poor little rich girl. Her story underlines the fact that money cannot purchase you health – and that sometimes the things people do to us “for our own good” is not what is best for us at all. I’m actually quite sure Juliet’s parents wanted to do the best for their daughter, and undoubtedly loved her dearly – but their actions left her feeling very abandoned and unwanted.

These two outsiders meet and find they have a rich, humourous, imaginative world in common. Finally, someone to open up to – who appreciates them. They create a beautiful fantasy world – and write novels (I wish I could read them) – and eventually become lovers.

The problem occurs when their parents become determined to tear them apart. For their own good. For the good of Juliet’s health she is to be sent to South Africa (although I can see that in her eyes her parents, now divorcing, are just getting rid of her again – neither of them want her in their new life) and of course, at the grand old age of 14 Pauline’s mother has no intentions of letting her leave the country!

Everyone is doing what is best for their daughter – but the girls can only see that the only person who makes them happy is being torn away from them and there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Except perhaps…and murder and mayhem ensues.