Mandi Bierly
May 30, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

EW reviews two Judy Davis DVDs

Strength. That’s what Judy Davis embodies, whether radiating it in her breakthrough role as Brilliant Career‘s Sybylla, a young woman in 1890s Australia determined to live independently, or preaching it as the mother of a young man (House’s Jesse Spencer) desperate to win his abusive father’s approval in Swimming Upstream‘s true story of Aussie swimmer Tony Fingleton. Both films feature worthy leading men: Sam Neill matches Davis, especially in a sweetly seductive outdoor pillow fight (lovingly filmed by future Moulin Rouge cinemato-grapher Donald McAlpine). Geoffrey Rush’s hardened performance as father Fingleton — who secretly trains his favored son to beat Tony — proves the only thing worse than a society trying to keep you down is a parent on that mission. EXTRAS While Upstream‘s 13 deleted scenes satisfy, with more Davis, Rush, and racing, the superficial making-of leaves you longing to hear more from Fingleton (who wrote the screenplay, based on his autobiography). Brilliant boasts a commentary and interview with director Gillian Armstrong (who claims Davis didn’t actually like her character); a chat with producer Margaret Fink (who further expounds on the movie’s then-controversial feminist ending); and a featurette on Miles Franklin, who wrote the Brilliant novel as a teenager. Brilliant: A-
Upstream: B-

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