The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker Information

The Dressmaker is a 2015 Australian revenge comedy-drama film directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham. It was produced by Sue Maslin, with a screenplay by Moorhouse. It stars Kate Winslet as a femme fatale in the titular role of the dressmaker, Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage, who returns to a small Australian town to take care of her ailing, mentally unstable mother. The film explores the themes of revenge and creativity and was described by Moorhouse as "Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven with a sewing machine."

The project was first developed in 2000, and Ham wrote a treatment herself. After initial attempts failed, Maslin bought the rights to the novel and hired Moorhouse to direct and write the screenplay. Production took place in Melbourne and across Victoria, Australia in late 2014. The film had its world premiere at 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2015 and had a theatrical release on 29 October 2015 in Australia and New Zealand. It opened at the number 1 spot at the Australian and New Zealand box offices and became the second highest-grossing Australian film of 2015 and eleventh highest-grossing film of all time at Australian box office.

The film led the 5th AACTA Awards with thirteen nominations, including Best Film, Best Direction, Best Production Design, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and won Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design and People's Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film.


In 1926 in the Australian outback town of Dungatar, schoolboy Stewart Pettyman dies in unknown circumstances. The only witness to his death, schoolgirl Myrtle Dunnage, is branded a murderer and exiled from the town by Stewart's father and town councillor, Evan Pettyman (Shane Bourne). 25 years later in 1951, Myrtle, now an accomplished dressmaker and going by the name Tilly (Kate Winslet), returns to her hometown to take care of her ill mother Molly (Judy Davis). Upon arrival, she is greeted by local police sergeant Horatio Farrat (Hugo Weaving), who is secretly a cross-dresser. Tilly returns home to find the house squalid and her mother plainly mentally ill which has earned Tilly's mother the nickname "Mad Molly" throughout town. Unable to remember the events of 1926, Tilly asks her mother about Stewart Pettyman's death, as she believes that day left her cursed. Molly claims to know nothing about the incident.

The entire town is quickly alerted to Tilly's return, as well as that of William Beaumont (James Mackay), son of the wealthy and snobbish Elsbeth Beaumont (Caroline Goodall). Gertrude Pratt (Sarah Snook), the daughter of the owners of the town's general store, possesses feelings for William, but lacks the confidence to tell him.

The town gathers for the local Australian Rules final game, and everyone is shocked when Tilly turns up to the match in a bright red couture gown that distracts the Dungatar players. During the interval, the handsome Teddy McSwiney (Liam Hemsworth) confronts Tilly about her distracting dress, and Tilly agrees to change. After changing into a black but equally alluring outfit, Tilly gives her business card to Gertrude, offering to make her a dress for the upcoming footballers dance. The last quarter of the game begins, with the teams having swapped ends of the field. Due to this, the opposing team from the nearby town of Winyerp are distracted by Tilly's dress, and Dungatar emerges as the winner. Later, Gertrude arrives at Molly's house to take up Tilly's offer. Tilly agrees to make the dress in exchange for the truth about Stewart Pettyman's death. Gertrude reveals that Tilly had hidden from Stewart Pettyman who had been bullying her unmercifully, but that she revealed Tilly's location in self-defence. Subsequently, Stewart died, but in circumstances unknown to her. Despite feeling betrayed by Gertrude, Tilly agrees to make the dress for her.

At the footballers dance, Gertrude's dress is a huge success, and she successfully uses it to capture the attention of William. They later become engaged. Soon, all of the townspeople begin asking Tilly for extravagant dresses. Simultaneously, Teddy pursues a romantic relationship with Tilly. Tilly and Sergeant Farrat also bond over their shared passion for designer clothing, and they form a friendship. Noticing that Tilly is beginning to regain the favour of the townspeople, Councillor Pettyman recruits dressmaker Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler) to start a rival dressmaking service to steal Tilly's business. This is initially successful, but when Gertrude hires Tilly to create her wedding dress, the rest of the townspeople return to Tilly, ruining Una.

Tilly uses a feather boa to bribe Sergeant Farrat into letting her read her former schoolteacher Beulah Harridiene's (Kerry Fox) witness statement from the day Stewart Pettyman died. Upon reading it, Tilly discovers that Beulah's statement is false. On the day of Gertrude and William's wedding, Tilly confronts Beulah, and she admits to lying in her witness statement. Tilly rushes to the wedding reception, where she tells Sergeant Farrat about Beulah's lies. Tilly claims that Pettyman had no right to send her away, but Farrat reveals that Pettyman is Tilly's father, and that he had a right as a parent. Meanwhile, Beulah approaches Pettyman's anxious wife Marigold (Alison Whyte), who became a recluse after the death of her son. Marigold is the only townsperson unaware of the rumour that Tilly murdered her son, but Beulah reveals this information to her. Marigold breaks down and starts yelling at Tilly, labelling her a murderer. Tilly runs from the reception, but Teddy chases after her.

Teddy takes Tilly to the schoolhouse, where Tilly begins to remember the events surrounding Stewart Pettyman's death"?Stewart subdued her against a wall, threatening to come at night to murder her mother and assault her if she moved. He charged head-down at her, intending to injure her. Instead, she stood aside at the last moment, and Stewart hit his head on the wall and broke his neck. Teddy reveals that the only witness was his brother Barney (Gyton Grantley), who had been sitting on the town silo at the time and saw the whole thing, but due to being developmentally disabled, no-one thought to ask him. Tilly and Teddy then go to his caravan and consummate their relationship, after which Tilly begins to believe that she may no longer be cursed. Later, she and Teddy sit on top of the town silo. Teddy shows off by jumping into the silo, despite Tilly's warning cries. The silo holds sorghum, and Teddy suffocates as he sinks into the grain.

Tilly becomes depressed after Teddy's death until her mother encourages her to continue dressmaking. While out in town, Molly suffers a stroke, and later dies. Only Tilly and Sergeant Farrat attend the funeral. Molly's death sets off a chain of disturbing and macabre events. While Tilly and Farrat are holding a wake for Molly, Beulah snoops around the house. Tilly drunkenly objects to the music on the portable record player, and throws it off the verandah, where it hits Beulah and injures her. Beulah is last seen being helped onto the train to Melbourne, ostensibly for treatment but really to be placed in an asylum. Percival Almanac (Barry Otto), the cruel town chemist who mistreated Tilly as a child, accidentally drowns in a pond at the back of his house. It is discovered that Almanac's wife Irma (Julia Blake) was unable to save her husband due to being under the influence of hash brownies, which had been baked by Tilly. In order to prevent Tilly's arrest, Sergeant Farrat takes the blame. He is then removed from the town by his superiors, something which greatly upsets Tilly. Tilly visits Marigold and reveals that her husband has been conducting numerous extramarital affairs, including with Una. Marigold confronts her husband about his unfaithfulness, and subsequently hamstrings him and leaves him to bleed to death.

The remaining townspeople travel to the neighbouring town of Winyerp to perform in a competitive Eisteddfod. Once there, they are shocked to discover that Tilly has designed and sewn all of the costumes for Winyerp's performance. While the townspeople are away, Tilly sets fire to her house and to a bolt of fabric soaked in kerosene that is rolled out down the hill towards the town. Tilly states that she is no longer cursed, and leaves the town by train, her sewing machine her only luggage. The townspeople, seemingly having lost the Eisteddfod, return to the town to find that it has burned down.


  • Kate Winslet as Myrtle "Tilly" Dunnage
    • Darcey Wilson as Young Myrtle
  • Judy Davis as Molly Dunnage
    • Lucy Moir as Young Molly
  • Liam Hemsworth as Teddy McSwiney
  • Hugo Weaving as Sergeant Horatio Farrat
  • Sarah Snook as Gertrude "Trudy" Pratt
    • Olivia Sprague as Young Gertrude
  • Sacha Horler as Una Pleasance
  • Caroline Goodall as Elsbeth Beaumont
  • James Mackay as William Beaumont
  • Rebecca Gibney as Muriel Pratt
  • Shane Bourne as Evan Pettyman
  • Alison Whyte as Marigold Pettyman
  • Barry Otto as Percival Almanac
  • Julia Blake as Irma Almanac
  • Kerry Fox as Beulah Harridiene
  • Gyton Grantley as Barney McSwiney
    • Alex de Vos as Young Barney
  • Genevieve Lemon as Mae McSwiney
  • Shane Jacobson as Alvin Pratt
  • Tracy Harvey as Lois Pickett
  • Terry Norris as Septimus Crescent
  • Amanda Woodhams as Nancy Pickett
    • Grace Rosebirch as Young Nancy
  • Stan Leman as Edward McSwiney
  • Rory Potter as Stewart Pettyman
  • Hayley Magnus as Prudence Harridiene
  • Mark Winter as Reginald Blood
  • Simon Maiden as Photographer



Rosalie Ham sold the rights of the novel for film in mid 2000s. She said in an interview, "I had ten offers on the table within weeks of the book coming out. I selected a producer who seemed passionate about the book and determined to make it happen" and even wrote screenplay for the film but somehow the project never took off. While missing out on the rights to begin with, Producer Sue Maslin reconnected with the author whom she hadn't seen for 30 years since they were at boarding school together. After the initial project was shelved, Maslin optioned the rights of the novel in 2009 and brought Moorhouse on board to direct and write the screenplay for the film. Maslin said, "She (Moorhouse) was living in Los Angeles and I flew there twice to talk to her (about coming back to Australia to make the film). It goes back to what she did with Proof, where every scene was on a knife edge between comedy and tragedy. You don`t know whether to laugh or cry." Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Ingenious Media, White Hot Productions, Fulcrum Media Finance, Motion Picture Lightning, and Soundfirm provided the additional investment for the film.

Moorhouse came on board for the project, saying, "I've waited years to make this movie. It's about my favourite subjects: revenge, love and creativity. I'm deeply grateful to have such extraordinary actors working on this with me." Moorhouse's husband, film director P. J. Hogan, served as the script editor for the project.


Kate Winslet and Judy Davis joined the cast of the film as Myrtle "Tilly" and Molly Dunnage respectively in August 2013. Maslin had Winslet and Davis in mind from the start of the project for the roles but knew that securing both of them would not be easy, saying, "Kate gets sent hundreds of scripts a year, and chooses two or three. She fell in love with Tilly, so it was all down to Jocelyn and her beautiful script" and "I've been trying to get Judy to work with me for about 20 years, I always offer her things and so does my husband. So when I read this character I thought, if only I could get Judy to do this. I was actually scared to send her the script, I kept doing more and more drafts so what she got was the best possible version. I was nervous, but I needn't have been because she seemed to respond to the character pretty quickly."

Liam Hemsworth as Teddy McSwiney, Isla Fisher as Gertrude Pratt and Elizabeth Debicki as Una joined the cast in early May 2014. Speaking about the casting, Moorhouse said, "Kate is perfect for Tilly, she"?s beautiful, intelligent, and deeply mysterious on screen. Judy Davis is amongst the great contemporary actresses and she will bring powerful wit and charm to the role of Molly. Liam Hemsworth is a laid back, genuine charmer who"?s also tall, dark and movie-star handsome." In early October 2014, Hugo Weaving joined the cast as Sergeant Farrat, a secret cross-dressing Police officer of Dungatar.

On 10 October 2014, it was announced that Debicki dropped out of the film to play the lead in The Kettering Incident and was replaced by Sacha Horler. Fisher also left the project due to pregnancy, and was replaced by Sarah Snook. Additional cast members were announced including Caroline Goodall, Shane Bourne, Kerry Fox, Rebecca Gibney, Shane Jacobson, Alison Whyte and Genevieve Lemon.

Ham encouraged the casting of extras from her hometown of Jerilderie, New South Wales, Australia, saying, "It was important to me that Jerilderie locals had a chance to be in the movie." The last portion of filming took place at Wimmera and more than 100 locals participated as extras. For the players in football match scene in the film, casting director Charlotte Seymour hired most of the extras from Wimmera's Laharum Football Netball Club. Singer Lanie Lane, who recorded songs for the soundtrack album of the film, also appears as an extra in the film. Ham herself makes an appearance as an extra in the film.


Production was initially planned to start in early 2014, but due to Winslet's pregnancy it was delayed to late 2014. Pre-production finally began in September 2014, with the construction of fictional town Dungatar started on 16 September 2014 at Mount Rothwell, one hour out of Melbourne. According to Maslin, after looking at many small towns around regional Victoria with Ham and Moorhouse, they decided to set the location of Dungatar "in the wheat-growing area of Victoria's Wimmera-Mallee." Maslin added, "Rosalie is definite about it being in a wheatbelt but on a hill. We drove around Victoria, NSW and into South Australia for three years looking but never found all the elements. Then one day the location department at Film Victoria rang up and suggested the back of the You Yangs near Geelong, where Heath Ledger had filmed Ned Kelly. It had a granite outcrop and a landscape of dead trees. Our DOP Don McAlpine took one look and said "?We have to shoot here"?."

The Emmy Award-nominated Marion Boyce was announced as the costume designer for the film. Maslin expressed excitement about working with Boyce on a film in which dressmaking plays an important role. Sophie Theallet was also asked to design two couture gowns for Winslet for the film In October 2014, Margot Wilson came on board as the costume designer for Tilly Dunnage's wardrobe worn by Winslet in the film. Additional retro clothes and accessories were provided by a shop named Retropolitan, located in West Annapolis, United States.

Winslet bought a sewing machine and learnt to sew for the film, she explained that "the one we used in the film, it was mine, the one that I had learnt on, and I took it over to Australia so that we could use it in the film." She used the Singer Sewing Machine Singer 201K2 in the film.


Principal photography started on 17 October 2014 in Melbourne, Australia at Docklands Studios and finished on 13 December 2014. Filming also took place at different towns in Victoria, Australia including Mount Rothwell, Little River, Horsham, and in the Wimmera region.

Interior scenes were filmed at the Docklands Studios, where an artificial silo, and part of Dungatar town, including Molly Dunnage's house, were constructed on the sound stage. On 20 October 2014, filming took place in Docklands Studios with Winslet and Davis. On 5 November 2014, filming took place at Muckleford, Victoria railway station, which was transformed into Dungatar's railway station. In the middle of November 2014, scenes were shot at Mount Rothwell, just north of the You Yangs, near Geelong, and later that month, scenes were filmed with an emu named Elvis, courtesy of the Mount Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre.

Hemsworth only joined the filming in late November 2014 because of his prior commitment to the promotion of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. On 2 December 2014, he, along with Gyton Grantley, shot scenes at Little River, just west of the You Yangs. Filming took place in different areas of Yarraville, a Melbourne suburb, including Ballarat Street, and around the Sun Theatre and the Sun Bookshop, on 4 December 2014. On 5 December 2014, filming took place in Melbourne with Winslet, Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving. A scene was also shot in a hall in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown, which served as fictional Dungatar.

In second week of December 2014, Maslin, along with a crew of 120 people, moved to Victoria's Wimmera region for further filming. Scenes were shot in different parts of Wimmera, including Sailors"? Home Hall at Murra Warra, the grain silo and cemetery at Jung, Laharum Homestead, and Murtoa Hall. Longerenong Homestead, near Horsham, was used for wedding reception scenes and Jung Recreation Reserve for football-match scenes. On 10 December 2014, football-match scenes were filmed with Winslet, Hemsworth, and Davis. On 12 December 2014, filming took place at Murtoa, which served as fictional town Winyerp in Ham's novel. Filming concluded with the shooting of wedding-reception scenes at Longerenong Homestead.


Post-production started in mid-December 2014, and took place at Soundfirm Melbourne, with Moorhouse, editor Jill Bilcock and music composer David Hirschfelder and was finished by 30 June 2015. Filming had included the use of greenscreen shots to which visual effects were added in post-production.


David Hirschfelder composed the score of the film. It is Hirschfelder's first collaboration with Moorhouse and second with Maslin, with whom he previously worked on Ann Turner's 2006 mystery drama film Irresistible. The soundtrack album was released digitally on 15 November 2015 by Hirschfelder's label. It also contains songs recorded by Australian singer and songwriter Lanie Lane.


Marketing and promotion

The first image of Winslet from the film was revealed on 17 December 2014. The first official trailer for the film along with a still from the film featuring Winslet and Liam Hemsworth was released on 13 July 2015.

The Dressmaker (novel) was republished as a tie-in-edition with film, featuring a new book cover and released by Penguin Books on 11 August 2015, before the release of the film.


The film premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2015. It was screened at Busan International Film Festival on 2 October 2015, followed by its screening at the 2015 Adelaide Film Festival on 16 October 2015. It screened at Mill Valley Film Festival on 17 October 2015 where it won the Audience Favourite Silver Award. It had its Australian premiere in Melbourne on 18 October 2015.

Universal Studios acquired the distribution rights of the film for Australia and New Zealand and initially planned to release the film on 1 October 2015. It was later changed to 29 October 2015. Energa Entusiasta released the film in Argentina on 19 November 2015. In UK, it had a theatrical release on 20 November 2015. Amazon Studios acquired U.S distribution rights to the film. The film is scheduled to be released in the United States in a limited release on 23 September 2016, with Broad Green Pictures co-distributing with Amazon.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 22 February 2016 in Australia. It was released on 14 March 2016 in the UK.


Box office

, The Dressmaker has grossed over US $21.08 million (AUS $28.62 million), against a budget of US $11.93 million (AUS $17 million).

The film opened at the number 1 position at Australian box office and earned US $697,791.12 (AUS $976,000) on its first day. It opened in 384 theatres and grossed US $5,862.59 (AUS $8,200) per theatre, and made US $2.26 million (AUS $3.16 million) including previews, with total earning of over US $2.56 million (AUS $3.58 million) in its opening weekend in Australia. Similarly it opened to number 1 position in New Zealand and grossed over US $220,329 (NZ $334,818) in three days. In its second week, it retained its no. 1 position at the box office with US $5.8 million (AUS $8.23) in Australia and US $510,000 (NZ $333264.60) in New Zealand.

It beat the record of Russell Crowe's The Water Diviner for the biggest Australian film opening at the box office and became the second highest-grossing Australian film of 2015 and eleventh highest-grossing film of all time at the Australian box office.

Critical response

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 56%, based on 89 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Dressmaker boasts a strong central performance by Kate Winslet and a captivating array of narrative weirdness -- all of which may or may not be a comfortable fit with viewers." Metacritic gives a score of 45 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying, "Moorhouse's adaptation of Rosalie Ham's 2000 novel may lead audiences to expect a primmer, more well-behaved movie based on its title alone, but that doesn't mean it won't have them in stitches" and praised Winslet and Davis's performances: "Winslet, a difficult actress to root against under any circumstances, has us in her palm from the moment she steps into frame, looking like an avenging dark angel bathed in "?50s noir shadows." and "Davis, whose performance here as a booze-swilling, dementia-addled and infernally sharp-tongued old matriarch is enough of a hoot to make one further wonder what she might have done with the role of Violet Weston in August: Osage County, onscreen or onstage." Sarah Ward of Screen International noted, "Light comedy, romantic drama, small-town secrets and revenge schemes might not seem an easy or winning mix; however in The Dressmaker, the combination fits." She also praised the costumes in the film, saying that "with the intricate work of costume designers Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson clearly pivotal." Richard Ouzounian of The Star gave it four out of four stars, calling it "a true bravura style and manages to serve as revenge tragedy, romantic comedy and stylish entertainment all at once" and saying, "Winslet is smashing as Tilly Dunnage and Davis is sublime." Jon Frosch in his review for The Hollywood Reporter said, "The Dressmaker is about as far from essential viewing as one could imagine, but, for all its brightly glaring flaws, much of it qualifies as a glossy, goofy guilty pleasure."

However, Kevin Jagernauth in his review for Indiewire criticised the film: "It"?s a potentially interesting concept, but movie never commits to that transition" but praised the cast, adding, "Winslet anchors the lead role with sexiness and confidence, staying measured even the movie around her isn"?t" and "Davis who winds up stealing most of the scenes, hilarious as Tilly"?s eccentric oddball mother." Gregory Ellwood of HitFix gave the film a negative review and said, "it's hard to mix over-the-top comedy and serious drama." Benjamin Lee of The Guardian gave the film two stars out of five, saying, "The film is a tonally uneven, genre-shifting hurricane of a thing, wildly careering off the rails and smashing into everything in its view."


Year Group/Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
2015 AACTA Awards
Best Film Sue Maslin
Best Direction Jocelyn Moorhouse
Best Lead Actress Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor Hugo Weaving
Best Supporting Actress Judy Davis
Sarah Snook
Best Production Design Roger Ford
Best Costume Design Marion Boyce
Margot Wilson
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine
Best Editing Jill Bilcock
Best Original Music Score David Hirschfelder
Best Sound Andrew Ramage
Glenn Newnham
Chris Goodes CAS
David Williams
Mario Vaccaro
Alex Francis
People's Choice Award for Favourite Australian Film Sue Maslin
AACTA International Awards
Best Supporting Actress Judy Davis
Australian Directors Guild Best Direction in a Feature Film Jocelyn Moorhouse
Australian Film Critics Association Best Film Sue Maslin
Best Director Jocelyn Moorhouse
Best Actress Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actor Hugo Weaving
Best Supporting Actress Judy Davis
Sarah Snook
Best Screenplay Jocelyn Moorhouse
P.J. Hogan
Best Cinematography Doanld McAlpine
Australian Screen Sound Guild Best Film Sound Recording Andrew Ramage
Dan Giles
Paradox Delilah
Best Film Sound Mixing Chris Goodes
Film Critics Circle of Australia Best Film Sue Maslin
Best Director Jocelyn Moorhouse
Best Actress Kate Winslet
Best Supporting Actress Judy Davis
Sarah Snook
Best Supporting Actor Hugo Weaving
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine
Best Music David Hirschfelder
Best Production Design Roger Ford
Best Editor Jill Bilcock
London Film Critics' Circle Awards British Actress of the Year Kate Winslet
Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Favorite, Silver Award - Mind the Gap: Women Jocelyn Moorhouse
Women Film Critics Circle Best Theatrically Unreleased Movie By Or About Women Sue Maslin
WIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards The Adrienne Fancey Award - Best Film Jocelyn Moorhouse

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Dressmaker_%282015_film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



Page generated in 0.29590702056885 seconds