Review by Jack Foley
FIVE years after the brilliant Lantana [one of the films of 2001] Australian director Ray Lawrence returns with another multi-layered tale of loss and human behaviour that makes for uneasy if thought-provoking viewing.
When a group of four men – led by Gabriel Byrne’s former rally driver Stewart Kane – stumble upon the body of a young Aboriginal woman floating in the river while on their annual fishing trip, they decide not to alert the authorities until after they’ve finished their adventure.
But the decision causes outrage within their community and heightens tensions between the whites and the Aboriginals, whilst also placing a strain on their various relationships.
Jindabyne is mired in moral complexity and frequently asks difficult questions of viewers. It’s a harder, darker and ultimately colder experience than Lantana and might not satisfy mainstream tastes.
But for those willing to stick with it the film offers an intriguing insight into a deep-rooted Australian problem that also functions as a compelling human drama.
What’s more, its buoyed by universally excellent performances from a first-rate ensemble cast.
Byrne, especially, really toys with viewers’ sympathies in portraying Kane as a selfish, brooding yet hopelessly frustrated man whose decision not to report the body immediately almost seems justifiable within the context of who he has become (almost…).
And he’s matched by Laura Linney as his wife, Claire, who struggles to understand and support her husband’s actions while coming to terms with the past demons the situation revives.
But Lawrence plays to the strengths of each cast member and draws terrific performances from everyone concerned, while making the most of the foreboding Australian locations that add to the sustained tension.
If there’s a criticism, it’s that the film does become a little heavy going towards the end and fails to capitalise on the potential offered by the thriller element of the plot (specifically, the murder of the Aboriginal girl). Most of the time is devoted to the rights and wrongs of the fishermen’s decision rather than the presence of a murderer in their midst.
In all other respects, though, Jindabyne keeps you enthralled even if you won’t necessarily be sitting comfortably.
Running time: 2hrs 4mins