Tension builds down under in Jindabyne | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Tension builds down under in Jindabyne 

Outbacklands

click to enlarge Laura Linney senses trouble in Jindabyne - PHOTO COURTESY OF SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

In a film that genuflects so devoutly, even stolidly, over schisms running along the rote themes of racial, gender and familial strife, the overarching theme of director Ray Lawrence's Jindabyne really revolves around the sundry shades of mortality.

Whether it's the young lady whose truncated life sets the table for the entire storyline, a middle-aged man who blackens the gray in his hair, a grandmother struggling to sustain her nurturing relevance, or a housewife who wonders when the Bee Gees became passé, the landscape is littered with lessons about the joy and pain of time's passage.

It is ironic, then, that time often seems to stop while watching Lawrence's first movie since 2001's Lantana and only the third in his 22-year career. Lawrence has been called the Australian Terrence Malick (Badlands, Days of Heaven) both for his sporadic filmography and penchant for slow-panned, wide-angle natural landscapes. For me, admittedly not the biggest Malick fan, the comparison is more acutely found here in Lawrence's reliance upon minimalist dialogue and stagnant pacing. Couple that with relentless melodrama and heavy-handed atmospherics, and you have a mostly fascinating, sometimes infuriating look at the consequences of life's choices and the fickle finger of fate.

As in Lantana, a corpse figures heavily in the plot. After Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) stumbles across the body of a naked aboriginal girl floating in the river on Friday, he and his four buddies continue their annual male-bonding fishing trip until Sunday, when they finally report their gruesome discovery. In the absence of a murder suspect, public ire targets the callousness of the four fishermen. The external controversy and ensuing pressure gradually reveals preexisting fissures in the relationships between the men and their wives, especially Stewart and his already strained marriage to Claire (Laura Linney), a transplanted American and mother to their young son, Tom.

This is not the first time author Raymond Carver's So Much Water So Close to Home has been referenced onscreen: It and eight other short stories by Carver comprise the collective inspiration for Robert Altman's Short Cuts, where Fred Ward and Anne Archer filled the Stewart and Claire roles. Here, the core of Carver's (a)morality play remains compelling, and Linney and Byrne are outstanding even if their characters are rather unlikable and annoying. But, the mistake by Lawrence and screenwriter Beatrix Christian is amplifying the personal conflicts and social moralizing beyond the point of merely complementing the central storyline or fleshing out its characters. Instead, the overly elongated narrative settles into a kind of Down Under version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? replete with lots of politically correct handwringing.

It all makes for a mature but thematically bloated film in which the secrets and emotional pain fester barely submerged below the surface of a placid everyday, an extension of the metaphors conjured by a mysterious dead body floating face-down atop the Snowy River and the town of Jindabyne itself—its original site was intentionally flooded and covered by a newly created lake when the river was dammed in the 1960s, an event referenced several times. The common thread running throughout is that the past never leaves us, no matter how hard we try to ignore or conceal it.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation