Book Review: Jocelyn Moorhouse’s memoir is proof that love is all you need

Jocelyn Moorhouse knows how to spin a great yarn. The Dressmaker director has had a rich career in film, and this forms part of her memoir, Unconditional Love. This book looks at her brilliant career, including her collaborations with filmmaker husband, PJ Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding). But, Moorhouse’s most intriguing chapters are about her experiences with motherhood. In Unconditional Love, Moorhouse essentially writes love letters to those she holds special in her heart.

Some people in the public eye want to project a nice and glossy, idealised view of their lives. But this isn’t the case with Moorhouse who takes an earthy, more realistic approach. Her prose is very personal and her descriptions are forthcoming. The narrative includes her childhood in suburban Melbourne and her courtship with Hogan. They would eventually marry and divide their time between Australia and the U.S. to support their careers.

At times these proceedings feel so intimate it’s like you could be reading Moorhouse’s mind or her diaries. Her writing is very descriptive and vivid, a skill she honed when writing scripts and preparing to direct. These chapters make this volume an absolute joy to read. Moorhouse doesn’t hold back in describing the highs and lows from her life. It’s heartening to hear about her experiences with different challenges. Moorhouse has negotiated death and illness, and professional setbacks like when her film Eucalyptus collapsed. These are all universal themes and we can all take something away from this powerful honesty.

A lot of this book is devoted to Moorhouse’s biggest role- as the mother of four. Moorhouse describes how she and the family grappled with her daughter, Lily’s diagnosis of autism. At the time this was devastating news. The health professionals they consulted said that Lily would never speak and would eventually have to be institutionalised. When Moorhouse’s son, Jack, was diagnosed a few years later this presented new challenges because both kids require different kinds of care and treatment.

Moorhouse was determined to help her kids out as much as possible. They had Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy and Moorhouse took time out from her career to support their treatments. This book details how the family achieved this and in some ways feels a little like James Best’s book, Sam’s Best Shot. It’s incredible that both sets of parents were determined to help their children thrive at all costs.

This book covers a lot of ground. We get a sense of Moorhouse’s history and character as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the Australian film industry. This text is raw and it covers a large amount of terrain and different emotions. There are moments of humour found amidst the darkness, and celebrations of lighter moments and memories. Moorhouse also celebrates the family’s many victories and successes, and for this, the book is an inspiring and absorbing tome.

Unconditional Love is a very heart-warming story told in a relatable and empathetic way. Moorhouse regales us with some inspired prose and rich anecdotes. The story is such a delightful and insightful one it will leave you hoping this it is adapted into a film because it is ultimately so moving and real.


Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Unconditional Love is out now through Text Publishing.