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Lilian’s Story

Release date: May 09, 1996
Directed by: Jerzy Domaradzki
Written by: Steve Wright, Kate Grenville
Produced by: Marian Macgowan
Running time: 94 minutes

For over 40 years, Lilian Singer (Ruth Cracknell) has been locked up in a mental institution by her father (Barry Otto). Her release is eventually secured by her eccentric Aunt Kitty (Iris Shand) and her brother. Lilian starts to carve out a place for herself. As she explores Sydney and the people who live and work around her she sees others looking for love. Lilian shows us it is never too late to change your life and that even unusual choices can bring contentment. The film tells her horrifying youth in flashbacks, with Toni Collette playing the young Lilian.

Cast & Characters

Ruth Cracknell (Lilian Singer), Barry Otto (John Singer), Toni Collette (Young Lilian Singer), John Flaus (Frank), Jeff Truman (Head Orderly), Lyle O’Hara (Esther), Kate Agnew (May), Fiona Press (Ruby), Pat Hutchinson (Babs), Rachel Szalay (Inmate One), Kris Bidenko (Inmate Two), Janet Foye (Inmate Three), Deborah Foster (Inmate Four), Iris Shand (Aunt Kitty), Susie Lindeman (Jewel), Anne-Louise Lambert (Mother), Fiona Mahl (Alma), Essie Davis (Zara), Marian Dworakowski (Zara’s Pimp), Matt Doran (Johnny), David Argue (Spruiker), Mary Regan (Angelique), Rachael Maza (Shade), Inga Romantsova (Marge), Morgan Smallbone (F.J. Stroud), Harry Pavlidis (Constable Sparkman), Brian M. Logan (Constable Lush), Jessie Bullions (Child Lilian), Katie Coogan (Teen Lilian),Kenny Graham (Cab Driver), Michael Greir (Driver of Kitty’s Cab), Bob Maza (Last Taxi Driver)

Production Notes

Based loosely on the life of legendary eccentric Bea Miles, an eccentric street person, who regaled passersby with rousing renditions of Shakespearean monologues. Over the years, Bea Miles became something of a local legend and cult figure, and the contributions she received for her “performances” allowed her to eke out a meager existence. In 1984, author Kate Grenville published a book called Lilian’s Story, which told a fictionalized account of Miles’ life. Although the names and details had been changed, much of what made Miles special remained. In 1994, that book has been transformed into a motion picture, following an eccentric but tenacious woman who is released from a mental institution after 40 years of incarceration. Ruth Cracknell plays the woman in the film’s present-day setting, while Toni Collette portrays her in younger years.

“Lilian’s Story” was shown at film festivals in Telluride, Edingburgh, Hamburg and the Hamptons. Variety praised the performances of the two leads, “Cracknell gives a full-blooded, gutsy performance. Collette has less material to work with until the powerful climax of the flashback segments, when she displays new range and depth.” Toni Collette won her second AFI Award, this time as Best Supporting Actress. The film was further nominated for Best Original Music Score.

Awards & Nominations

  AFI Award – Best Supporting Actress