Review: Jack Foley
DVD FEATURES: Director's commentary; Trailer;Cast and
crew biographies; The Nature of Lantana.
RELATIONSHIPS take centre stage in Lantana, a psychological thriller
about love which has to rate as one of the finest movies of the
Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey,
this Altman-esque Australian potboiler is a multi-layered and
frequently pulsating journey through four marriages, all of which
seem unrelated at first, but which become drawn into a tangled
web of love, deceit, sex and death following the disappearance
of one woman.
Navigating his way through them is LaPaglias rough
around the edges Leon Zat, a violence-prone cop attempting
to cope with a mid-life crisis, who is having an affair (with
Rachael Blakes far from plain Jane!) and suffering from
His wife, meanwhile (played by the beautiful Kerry Armstrong),
is also suffering from self-doubt and seeks solace in her dance
lessons and in the sympathetic ears of Hersheys tortured
psychiatrist, a woman still coming to terms with the death of
her daughter and who is beginning to question the sexuality of
her own, distant husband (played by Rush).
Zats mistress, on the other hand, is having issues of her
own, caught between the need for some stability and her desire
for Zat and, possibly, the happily married bloke next door (Vince
Colosimos Nik), who may, in turn, know something about the
corpse seen at the beginning of the movie and which provides the
catalyst for Zats journey of self-discovery.
Sound complicated? Well, it is credit to director Ray Lawrence
that proceedings never become too convoluted or contrived, as
its tangled plot unfolds in a way that constantly surprises and
The title of the movie takes its name from the opening image
- that of a woman caught within a twisted and entangled vine,
a woman wearing a gold ring on her finger, a married woman, who
is trapped by the vine itself, with its twisted branches covered
in tiny thorns that could cut you to shreds, as well as lush green
leaves, colourful flowers and moments of exquisite beauty.
For Andrew Bovell, who wrote the screenplay, it provides a literal
and metaphoric resonance to the story, which, in turn, is
about human vulnerability and about people reaching a particular
stage in their lives when they need to question and re-examine
how they are living, particularly in the nature of love and relationships.
The movie itself was inspired by the stage version of Bovells
own screenplay - Speaking in Tongues - and was something which
the writer admits to believing might not work on film; yet the
resulting picture won seven Australian Film Institute Awards (including
Best Film and Best Director) when it was released last year. It
is easy to see why.
Lantana is a tough, uncompromising depiction of adult relationships,
stripped bare, that is under-pinned by some of the years
grittiest performances. Rush and Hershey, as we have come to expect,
stand out, as do the likes of the lesser-known Armstrong and Colosimo,
but this is LaPaglias movie and his raw portrayal of the
reprehensible Zat is a revelation.
LaPaglia has made a career out of providing solid support in
movies such as The Client and Summer of Sam, but here produces
a mesmerising star turn, which is as honest and intense as it
is conflicted and life-affirming.
High praise indeed, but with a film this good, it is easy to
run out of superlatives.