Book Review: Unconditional Love by Jocelyn Moorhouse

Award-winning director and screenwriter Jocelyn Moorhouse gives us a glimpse into her passionate world in this memoir about filmmaking and motherhood.
Book Review: Unconditional Love by Jocelyn Moorhouse

Written from the heart, Unconditional Love is a story about what it is to be a creative in a cutthroat industry and the dedication of a woman whose love for her children, two of whom have autism, is unwavering.

Growing up in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, filmmaker Jocelyn Moorhouse always had a fascination with images. From watching dust motes illuminated by light drift around her room, to learning how to use the family camera, she knew what she wanted early in life and her dedication has enabled her to direct numerous films including Proof, How to Make an American Quilt, A Thousand Acres and The Dressmaker.

ADVERTISEMENT

It's her mother who she credits for her chosen career path.

‘She always had a camera with her. Her love of images must have been in her blood. And she passed it on to me. She taught me how to use my first still camera. Then she taught me how to use her Super 8 movie camera and how to edit the footage. It’s all her fault I became a film director.'

Raised in a tight-knit family with adoring siblings and parents, Moorhouse was encouraged to follow her dream and moved to Sydney when she was 20 to study film at AFTRS. She was lucky, as it was there she met fellow student P.J. Hogan who became her co-collaborator, husband, and the father of her four children.

Thanks to the success of her directorial feature debut Proof, opportunities presented themselves and Moorhouse then moved to the U.S. with P.J. so they could both begin international film careers.

Capturing the sense of excitement and opportunity, Moorhouse writes about life in the States, being on film sets and directing stars such as Winona Ryder and Jessica Lange. But life soon turns upside down when she discovers her second- born child Lily has autism.

Putting on hold her career, Moorhouse takes a break from filmmaking, dedicating all her time to researching autism and finding the best carers to help Lily. She writes of her determination: 

‘All my instincts said: I cannot leave Lily’s side. I will not leave her side until she is better.’ But better would take years, as it turns out.’

After 18 years and two more children, including another diagnosed with autism, Moorhouse finally returned to directing with the smash The Dressmaker. It was her absence from the craft that she says gave her plenty of perspective.

‘As a woman and as a mother, I thought my duty was to devote as much energy as possible to improving the lives of my children even if that meant ignoring my own needs. But this was superstitious, primitive reasoning. It didn’t have to be one or the other. I could be a loving, working, committed creative mother.’

Unconditional Love is an inspirational memoir of heartbreak, love and hope that celebrates one of our filmmaking greats.

4 stars ★★★★

Unconditional Love: A memoir of filmmaking and motherhood
By Jocelyn Moorhouse
RRP: A$32.99
Publication date 16 April
Category: Memoir
Imprint: Text Publishing
Pages 296

About the author

Sabine Brix is a writer, editor, podcaster and electronic musician with a specific interest in personal storytelling that captures the essence of why people create. She was the former Online Content Producer at Archer Magazine and editor of the LGBTI website: Gay News Network.

She has produced sound art for BBC's Radio4  and composed music for the web series Starting From Now, which screened on SBS.

Follow Sabine on Twitter @sabinebrix