Loyalty And Rabbits: Reviewing Second Run’s Blu-Ray Of ‘Celia’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but that doesn’t mean other Blu-Ray labels always have to step on Second Run’s toes. Second Run is a UK-based company that constantly puts out great films, and most (if not all) of their releases are region free, yet recently I reviewed their Blu-Ray of Adoption and Criterion is releasing the film in March. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. Other examples include Karel Zeman’s films and Diamonds of the Night, and while the bonus features are different and the packaging’s not the same, there are too many films that have never been released on physical media for there to be overlap.

With Celia, Second Run released the film on DVD for the first time in 2009. Since then, Umbrella Entertainment has released the film on DVD (though as a double feature with the equally unsung, Tale of Ruby Rose) and it’s also available on Blu-Ray as part of Severin’s folk horror box set, All the Haunts Be Ours, but Second Run upgraded the film to Blu-Ray first, and it’s a standalone release, so there’s no reason not to give it a try. It doesn’t hurt that Celia is a film worth owning multiple copies of, either, especially when there are exclusive bonus features involved.

Set in Australia during the ’50s, Celia follows a young girl named Celia (Rebecca Smart) who recently lost her grandmother (Margaret Ricketts) and finds comfort in getting to know her new neighbors, the Tanners. When her father (Nicholas Eadie) finds out her friends are the children of Communists, though, she’s told not to see them again and Celia has to decide whether she’s going to listen.

Of course, to her dad, Celia doesn’t have a choice. He’s the adult and she’s the child, but Celia doesn’t necessarily subscribe to that point of view. In fact, most of the time Celia is shown to be a better judge of character. What’s great about this film is writer-director, Ann Turner, gives children the credit they deserve. Celia may be young but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have convictions or the ability to make tough choices. It’s only unfortunate that she has to when the adults in her life fail. The scene where Celia’s dad tries to bribe her with a pet rabbit is a prime example. It’s also a prime example of Turner’s willingness to leave things unspoken, so there’s room for interpretation.

Basically, Celia’s dad has agreed to buy Celia a rabbit but only tells her at the last minute that there are conditions. If she wants a rabbit, she can’t see the Tanners anymore. When Celia hands the rabbit back to him, though, he doesn’t take it as a sign that she’s refused. He takes it as a sign that she’s accepted and buys the rabbit.

Is he being oblivious, or deliberately obtuse? Celia‘s so subtle it could go either way, but the film’s maturity about issues, like loyalty and putting family first, make it a joy to watch. Celia’s dad may be the “villain” of this story, but he’s also her dad, and Celia struggles to cut him off, despite her conscience.

Second Run’s Blu-Ray comes with an interview with Turner that’s carried over from the DVD. There’s also a new featurette that provides additional context on communism in Australia and the rabbit plague. The essay booklet includes an essay by Michael Brooke and an essay by Joy Damousi which looks at the different lens through which Celia can be perceived, whether it’s feminism, horror, or a coming-of-age film. The highlight of this release is a conversation between Maria Lewis and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, where they talk about Celia’s mother (Mary-Anne Fahey) and being able to tell when someone’s watching Celia for the first time.

Celia isn’t afraid to go some dark places and, while cast interviews would’ve made this release definitive, Second Run’s all-region Blu-Ray is still a must own.

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