Dorthe Scheffmann's directorial debut celebrates female relationships and is a wonderfully thoughtful, deliberate film.

Everything feels carefully constructed – from casting choices to lush settings and immaculate costumes, and its emotive musical score from Don McGlashan. The love and care invested is evident on screen, and it's a pleasure to see all aspects of filmmaking come together so cohesively.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand is perfectly cast as Darcy, a composer who has synaesthesia, meaning she sees colour when playing musical notes. When those colours start changing Darcy knows something is happening to her uniquely wired brain beyond synaesthesia, giving her reason to take stock of her life and relationships.

With daughter Zoe's (Emily Campbell) wedding approaching, Darcy throws herself into wedding planning as a means to mend their difficult relationship. Ensuring Darcy doesn't overstep the mark are two dear friends, Sila (Goeretti Chadwick) and Sarah (Theresa Healey).


Together, they're Darcy's family - nurturing and honest, they know her as well as she knows herself. It's refreshing to see a mature narrative based around motherhood and female relationships; but men also play their part, aiding reconciliations and providing a means of confession when Darcy is looking for insight and answers. They're also lovers.

Which brings me to Ward-Lealand's performance. Layered, assured and fascinating, it's also sensual. And she's not the only, shall we say, post-20s, actress presenting a sexually confident character, Healey makes her mark too.

Vermilion is a grown up film. It doesn't feel the need to spell it all out; rather, it encourages the viewer to participate, and form their own ideas about characters and their relationships. It may not appeal to those who prefer the lighter Kiwi comedy we're familiar with, but those who appreciate another layer of complexity, and genteel pacing have a film to saviour.


Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Theresa Healey


Dorthe Scheffmann

Running Time:


92 mins


M (Suicide)


Thoughtful viewing for discerning film lovers