After graduating from the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts in Perth and appearing extensively on Australian TV in series including "Halifax f. p.," dark-haired, porcelain-skinned actress Frances O'Connor made her film debut in Emma-Kate Croghan's surprise hit "Love and Other Catastrophes" in 1996. She played Mia, a self-assured film student facing difficulties with school administration and romantic problems with her girlfriend Danni (Radha Mitchell). The actress' impressive turn as the staunch and spunky young woman in this Australian independent garnered notice and acclaim. Hot on the heels of the 1996 Cannes screening of "Love and Other Catastrophes," O'Connor began lensing "Thank God He Met Lizzie" (1997) a romantic comedy starring Cate Blanchett as the titular significant other of a man (Richard Roxburgh) plagued by thoughts of his previous girlfriend Jenny (O'Connor). As Jenny, O'Connor gave an exuberant performance, easily evincing the high-spirited vitality and charm crucial to her role as the idealized early girlfriend who lives primarily in flashback. Although the film attracted only a small audience, critics pointed to O'Connor's performance as a stand-out feature of the otherwise unremarkable offering.