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Movie Review: Jindabyne

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This is a haunting thriller from down under about murder, marriage, and insensitivity from filmmaker Ray Lawrence (Lantana), one of Australia's most highly regarded directors who has achieved critical acclaim and commercial success in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. It's based on the story So Much Water So Close to Home by Raymond Carver.

The opening scenes of this movie show a truck driver scouting the lonely roads in the desolate areas of Australia. He is a crazed and racially bigoted person looking for colored girls to kill. On this particular day on a desert road he finds a victim and brutally murders her.

The plot switches back to a town where a group of men are preparing for a fishing competition. On their annual fishing trip in isolated high country Australia, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne), Carl (John Howard), Rocco (Stelios Yiakmis), and Billy "the Kid" (Simon Stone) find a young Aborigine girl's body in the river. It's decided by the group that it's too late in the day for them to hike back to the road and report their tragic find. The next morning, instead of making the long trip back, they spend the day fishing.

Their decision to stay on at the river is a little mysterious — it's almost as if the place itself is exerting some kind of influence over them. When the men finally return home to Jindabyne and report finding the body, all hell breaks loose. Their wives can't understand how they could have gone fishing with a dead girl right there in the water — she needed help. The men are confused; the girl was already dead, there was nothing they could do for her.

Stewart's wife Claire (Laura Linney) is the last to know. As details filter out, Stewart resists talking about what happened. Claire is deeply disturbed by her husband's actions, her faith in Stewart is shaken. She wants to understand and tries to make things right. In her determination to help the victim's family, Claire sets herself not only against her own family and friends, but also those of the dead girl.

It seems that the underlying point might be the racial and cultural insensitivity festering in this town. The local police could not gather evidence because the group tied the dead body to a tree stump along the river to keep the remains available. The peaceful life of this community is in a state of confusion between the two cultures — the native colored peoples and the caucasians. Meanwhile, with the lack of evidence, the crazed killer is never caught.

This excellent film gave me a conscience-awakening ride. Laura Linney's sensitive performance was heartwarming as well as strong as her character dealt with this moral dilemma. Gabriel Byrne was wonderful as the somewhat callous husband who obviously was part of the problem of polarization. The cinematography of the Australian desert was spectacular, which added the necessary suspense and fullness in bringing this story to life.

Directed by: Ray Lawrence
Run time: 123 mins.
Release date: April 27, 2007
Genres: Art/Foreign, Drama, Thriller and Adaptation
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: R

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