Based on an apparently well-regarded book by Rosalie Ham, this Jocelyn Moorhouse directed film is set in 1951, Victoria, Australia, where Kate Winslet returns to her aged and frequently ga-ga, amnesiac mother (Judy Davis) living in a small outback town where everyone knows everyone else. She was sent into exile as a 10-year old having, reputedly, killed a boy. But now she's in total control, bursting with self-belief, and taunting the drooling, local males with her femininity, while simultaneously determined to get to the bottom of what really happened regarding the dead child, her own almost non-existent memories of what happened not supporting the 'official' version of events. But - and this is a major part of the film - she is now an accomplished dressmaker, acutely aware of fashions and how to dress the ladies, a talent which gets much noticed and causes her talents to be in great demand, despite her unfortunate reputation as an alleged killer, something of which everyone is aware.
Among the residents of the place is the one-man police force of Hugo Weaving (always very watchable), who is greatly partial to women's clothing, going all gooey at the sight and feel of the fabrics, and wearing dresses in his own time. Hunky romantic interest is provided by Liam Hemsworth from 'The Hunger Games'.
It ought to have been zany throughout, at least that would have made it a more successful film (though I guess it's only following the novel), but it does rather go to pieces about three-quarters of the way through when a sudden accident occurs and the Winslet character loses her mask of self-confidence - though she does resume it again before the close.
Now and again I was thinking of the Coen brothers and how they would have handled the prevailing, off-key mood. They are (or were, in their heyday) total masters in sustaining the bizarre feel of strange, often comedic, circumstances throughout their films. 'The Dressmaker', in my view, has too many contrasts, and latterly with a serious edge, to be put in the same class as theirs. But it's by no means devoid of some enjoyable, even a couple of delicious, moments.......................6.