REVIEW: Sheila’s story really is extraordinary

Writer, historian, illustrator, naturalist, sailor, cyclist and nonagenarian.

There’s no shortage of words to choose from when it comes to describing Sheila Natusch.

There is, however, an extremely well-made film about her extraordinary life.

No Ordinary Sheila is aptly named. Directed by Hugh Macdonald, Sheila’s cousin and produced by author Christine Dann, the documentary explores the life of Sheila and the fiercely independent, talented and creative woman that she was.

I’d wager it near impossible to watch this remarkably well-told story and not feel inspired to live life to its fullest.

In her words: “I’m interested in living and getting the last bit of fun out of life there is” — and that she did.

Born on Stewart Island in 1926, Sheila was never destined to have an ordinary life.
The film follows her from early childhood, into her young adult years where she formed a friendship with renowned New Zealand author Janet Frame as they attempted an unsuccessful foray into teaching together and then further into later life.

Excerpts of interviews mixed in with archive footage and a fantastic soundtrack entwine together to create a beautiful masterpiece offering a glimpse into the making of Sheila.

The final moments of the film were simply beautiful — so much in fact that I was nearly brought to tears. An emotional montage of Sheila’s life made all the more moving by a perfectly suited musical ensemble in the background.

Sheila passed away in early August, just days after she saw the film of her life at the sold out Wellington premiere where it finished to rapturous applause.

In Sheila’s words, the film was “just brilliant”.

A brilliant film for a brilliant lady — it’s only right I suppose.

In those final few moments of the film, Sheila’s sheer determination shines through during an interview with Radio New Zealand’s Kim Hill.

“I’ve got cancer of the liver but I ignore it,” she says matter-of-factly.

What about treatment?

“There’s nothing they can do. I’ll just fade away in my own time…it’s nothing.”

What an extraordinary attitude from someone who certainly was no ordinary Sheila.