Heavenly Creatures

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Heavenly Creatures is a 1994 film by Peter Jackson, and most notably the first film of Kate Winslet.

The story is narrated by 14-year old Pauline Rieper through her Real Life diary entries from the time she meets Juliet Hulme, to when they create their own fantasy world, to when their impending separation causes them to believe Murder Is the Best Solution to their problems.

Based on a True Story.

Tropes used in Heavenly Creatures include:

Doctor Bennett: Chances are she'll grow out of it. If not... well, medical science is progressing in leaps and bounds. There could be a breakthrough at any time!

  • Dawson Casting: Averted. Melanie Lynskey was sixteen and Kate Winslet was seventeen, the same ages as their characters at the end of the film.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Homosexuality was considered a mental illness at the time. While Dr. Bennett does advise that Pauline doesn't need to obsess over one "friend," he thinks that if it is a crush, then it's a phase.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The girls' murder plot is not well thought-out. They think it will be a fast Mercy Kill if they hit Honorah on the back of the head with a brick, and can play it off as her either falling in the park or being mugged. Nope; in real life, it 45 blows to kill her, and the girls were coated in blood after the deed was done. While they tried to say that Honorah had an accident and was attacked by a strange criminal, the police noted that the violence of the crime was too deliberate and haphazard to be a mugging, and asked Herbert Rieper if Pauline kept a diary. Turns out she kept detailed notes of the murder plot. Whoops!
  • Did Not Do the Research: At least one news article that showed up after Kate Winslet won her Oscar noted that her first film role was "an Australian school girl" (the movie takes place in New Zealand and Winlset's character is British).
    • Averted hard by the movie itself. While there are a number of changes for dramatic effect (the Orson Welles film they saw wasn't The Third Man but Trent's Last Case (1954), which Jackson changed because Welles was heavily made up in the role in question), some of the diary entries were edited, a number of people were either omitted entirely (e.g. Pauline's severely disabled younger sister Rosemary) or condensed into single roles, many efforts were made to be as accurate as possible. Almost all of the named people in the movie were real, the principals have very accurate accents and strong physical resemblances to the real people, and wherever possible the real life locations were used, with the significant exception of the Rieper house, which had been torn down long before filming.
  • Downer Ending: The girls' plot to stay together leads with them killing Honorah, causing both of them to break down when it sinks in what they have done. They get arrested, tried and convicted, with their sentences separating them. The surviving parents are left to deal with the aftermath, and Dr. Hulme is forced to leave his cheating wife in the middle of the offscreen investigation.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While the girls have different Imagine Spots involving violence and murder, they are aghast after figuring out that Mrs. Hulme is having an affair with Bill Perry. Juliet threatens to tell her father, only for Mrs. Hulme to reveal that it's an open secret. Not to mention in the minutes leading up to the murder, both girls are visibly hesitating about the deed, with Pauline breathing hard to brace herself.
  • Faux Documentary: The "Visit Christchurch!" film that begins the movie.
  • The Fifties: The story takes place in 1954-55.
  • Girls Love: One of the more disturbing examples really.
  • He Also Did: The real Juliet Hulme later became moderately famous writing mystery novels under the name Anne Perry.
  • Hope Spot: For Honorah, before Juliet prepares to leave for South Africa, has a pleasant outing with them in the park, as a formal goodbye. Pauline even holds her hand when helping her over rocky parts of the trail. She barely has time to register when both girls start hitting her with a brick and scream at her to die.
  • I Have Many Names: Pauline Rieper, AKA Paul (for short), Charles (role-playing), Gina (preferred name), and Yvonne (middle name/family nickname) and Pauline Parker, after it's discovered that her parents never married, and Hilary Nathan, after being released from prison; Juliet Hulme, AKA Deborah ("Deborrah") as well as the alias she used after she's released from prison. Additionally, Pauline renames her lover from boring ol' John to Nicholas.
  • Ill Girl: Both girls as children, but mainly Juliet.
  • Imagine Spot: The girls imagine very violent things happening to a sanctimonious priest, a smarmy child psychologist, and their parents.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: While it leads to tragedy, both the Hulmes and Riepers have a point when trying to explain why Pauline shouldn't accompany Juliet to South Africa. It's already a strenuous trip for a child, and Pauline doesn't have any family in the country. She would be completely isolated and dependent on the Hulmes. Pauline and Juliet don't buy it, especially when Pauline believes her parents are withholding consent for her to get a passport.
  • Love Makes You Crazy And Evil
  • Mad Love: It even has its own banner that explodes in blood!
  • Made of Plasticine: The Borovnians. Literally.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Juliet
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: In Pauline's mind, the only thing standing between her and living with the Hulmes is her mother.
  • Ms. Imagination: Both Pauline and Juliet by quite a bit.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The climax ends with Pauline screaming and crying in remorse after she and Juliet succeed in killing Honorah. Juliet is also pretty horrified.
  • Name's the Same: Both actresses later achieved fame as characters named Rose: Rose DeWitt-Buchater and Rose the stalker.
  • New Year's Resolution
  • Parents as People: One could argue that this drives the second part of the movie.
    • Dr. Hulme means well, with both Juliet and Pauline calling him a good man, but he's ineffective against his wife's affair and how it costs him his university position. He's also the one who raises concerns about the girls' obsessive friendships, which doesn't help. When wanting to move Juliet to South Africa, he points out that with her lungs, a warmer climate is healthier for her while refusing to let Pauline come.
    • Honorah pulls her daughter out of school when she starts to fail her classes and her studies. She also slut-shames Pauline while bullying her to improve her health, since Pauline is underweight.
  • Parental Hypocrisy: When Pauline is caught in bed with John, her mother calls her a "slut". Pauline calls out her mother, saying that Honorah broke up her father's first marriage when she was only seventeen.
  • Protagonist's Journey to Villain: The whole movie showcases this. Pauline and Juliet seem normal enough, if overly imaginative and trapped within their own worlds while dealing with chronic sickness. As their friendship becomes more obsessive, however, they vow to protect it by any means necessary, even murder.
  • New Zealand Doubling: Averted, the entire film was shot on location in Christchurch, NZ. They even filmed where the actual murder took place. According to IMDB, it became eerily quiet when they started shooting, so they moved up a few paces until things felt comfortable. That's the actual tea shop in the park; when filming was completed, the tea shop was torn down so that it wouldn't become a Graceland.
    • Even the actual 1950's Christchurch Girls' High School was used, despite the school itself moving from the City Centre to Riccarton in 1986.
  • No Kill Like Overkill:
    • Diello, the young prince of Borovnia, who kills pretty much everyone who isn't his parents.
    • This is what made the police suspicious of the girls, leading to them finding Pauline's diary with the murder plot details. As we see in the climax, they hit Honorah multiple times, 45 actually, in an attempt to kill her. A mugger wouldn't have done that, and no fall on the trail would have caused that much bruising or bleeding.
  • Parental Obliviousness
  • Put on a Bus: How Juliet feels when her parents leave her in hospitals for her health while they go on business trips.
  • Reality Ensues: Both Juliet and Pauline romanticize murder in their novel, with Prince Diello murdering anyone that has the bad luck to enter his sights. Thing is when the plasticine figures are killed, it is always quickly and with clean blows or slices. When the girls plot a real murder, they find out that killing a person is not that easy with a brick, and is much more traumatizing for the parties involved when they realize what they did. They have to knock down Honorah Parker and hit her 45 times to properly kill her. Also, all the blood meant they were pegged as the most likely suspects, with witnesses in real-life noting that they were laughing while washing themselves.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship
  • Psycho Schoolgirl Lesbians: They appear to be this in the movie, but Anne Perry insists it was "only" a really intense two-girl friendship. (Pauline doesn't talk to the press.) The actresses were instructed to play the girls as "devoted friends" who were just role-playing love scenes between their favorite characters.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The girls are so terrified and heartbroken about being on separate continents that they plot to murder Honorah, thinking she is standing in the way of their happiness by refusing to let Pauline obtain a passport. Thanks to the subsequent murder trial, they were housed in separate jails for five years. While they weren't forbidden from seeing each other as the movie claims, they both seemed to realize independently that the relationship was not healthy and traveled to different countries
  • Shout-Out: The photo of Orson Welles that floats away on the river is a homage to a scene from The Third Man; one of the photos in Pauline's room is the real Juliet Hulme.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: While only peripherally involved in the story, short, stout, Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette Pauline has a tall, blond, glamorous-looking sister.
    • In reality, Pauline was described as glamorous by classmates; a "proud beauty", "like a gypsy". Juliet was considered a snooty Brit with a "perpetual cold" who (they thought) exaggerated her symptoms for attention.
  • Sock It to Them: The movie ends with a murder committed with a brick in a nylon stocking.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Borovnia.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Pauline and Juliet are fourteen and fifteen at the beginning of the film, sixteen and seventeen by the end.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted, Pauline is taken to a child psychologist who concludes she's suffering from a mental disorder called "Homosexuality".
  • Title Drop: During Pauline's poem.
  • Unfortunate Names: Pauline Rieper especially after what she does to her mother.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Juliet's mother by having an affair with Bill Perry causes her husband to lose his professorship position. Dr. Hulme considers that if he has to move back to England, Juliet could get sick again, and would have to take her to South Africa. It also starts the chain of events that lead to the girls plotting the murder.