Synopsis: Missing teens send the rural Australian town on a look-out, while the parents lives begin to fall apart.
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Stranger things have happened in movies than the events that occur in Kim Farrant’s Strangerland (available on Blu-ray/DVD), yet it doesn’t take away from the bizarre event that transpire in the movie. Strangerland could be described with a movie that revolves around the 3 D’s (not the image kinda 3D), despair, depression, and destruction. These are the emotions that the central characters are dealing with throughout the movie.
The Parker’s are a seemingly normal family with two teenage kids. As we are introduced to them, we learn that they move into a rural town in the Australian outback. They live a fairly simple life. The father, Matthew, is played by Joseph Fiennes, works as a pharmacist. Catherine (Nicole Kidman) is the stay at home mom. The couple have moved to this small rural town in order to escape from the dark past that’s marred by their daughter Lilly’s (Maddison Brown) sexual relationship with her former teacher. Lilly’s promiscuity leads to the unease and control the parents have over the kids. Lilly has little respect for her parents and defies them any chance she gets. Where issues arise is when Lilly and her brother Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) run away in the middle of the night.
Matthew and Catherine’s nightmare comes true as bother of their kids go missing amidst a sand storm. The search for the children is investigated by Detective David Rae (Hugo Weaving), who turns every stone in search for the missing children. Desperation takes over the parents as the search leads to no answers. Both Matthew and Catherine began unraveling in their own way. Catherine is draws closer to Rae, while distancing from her husband. Days go by, and as the search continues, hope is being lost by the hour, can the couple put it their lives back together and find their missing children is the centerpiece of the movie.
Strangerland is a splendidly shot movie. Cinematographer P.J. Dillon does fine work in showcasing the depressing and intimidating Australian outback. The empty deserted land is both a fascinating and dull image to see. Director Kim Farrant does a nice job focusing on the emotional unrest that the parents have to go through when their child vanishes. The story is more focused on the parents, than the missing children, it’s a more dramatic an powerful that way.
Nicole Kidman gives one of her better performances in years. Kidman is raw and powerful in her portrayal of a mother who seems to have lost her identify. Joseph Fiennes is equally impressive as a father who is filled with rage and disappointment in his teen daughter. Fiennes has some explosive scenes that really highlight the struggle he’s dealing with. Kidman strips down, literally and figuratively, to divulge the inner pain she’s dealing with.
There are a few instances in the movie where you wonder if she’s just a grieving mother, or if she’s filled with some pent up sexual frustration that she wants to release on any man that she can get a hold of. These scenes contain some animalistic-like craving for sex. She literally wants to pounce on these men. It’s probably insight that Farrant was trying to convey that the mother has equally unresolved sexual dependency issues, just like the daughter has. It’s an interesting psychological perspective that someone much smarter than me could pick up on and delve into deeper.
Aside from the stellar cinematography and the powerful performances, the storyline falls a bit flat. Clearly this is a depressing sort of movie, the subject matter justifies that. The faults lie in the presentation. The movie is much longer than it really needs to be. The characters could easily convey their struggles in a shorter amount of time. While the roller-coaster of emotions is explored, there is no real payoff at the end. Some lessons are learned, but it doesn’t give you tremendous confidence that these people have changed for the better. The ending will make you feel empty. There is little resolution, and a huge question regarding motive of the disappearance remains.
If this movie’s main focus was to convey the emotions and struggle of the people affected by such a heartbreaking incident, then they have done a nice job. On the other hand, if the goal was to present a mysterious suspense story that will keep you on the edge, they will most likely lose you halfway through the movie. The script is slow to develop, and there aren’t enough clues planted to keep you fully engaged.
Additional Thoughts: I really appreciated the vulnerability that Nicole Kidman brought to this film. She showed why she’s one of the better actors in film. Josph Fiennes is always so solid in every role, he brought a lot to the table in this film also. I thought that the most sympathetic character in the movie was that of the detective played by Hugo Weaving. His character tried to help everyone involved, while dealing with his own issues of a failed marriage and a broken family. I feel there is a lot more that could have been done with this film. The possibilities were there. The ending, while realistic in nature, was underwhelming. I appreciate the filmmaker not going for a story-book ending, but the way it was executed left a lot to be desired. As a viewer, I want some sort of a resolution or answer. The ending felt more confusing than it did mysterious. Was the land strange or the people? Still wondering that.
Rating: R (language, sexuality,brief graphic nudity)
Runtime: 112 minutes
Release: In Theaters (limited) and VOD: July 10, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray: August 17, 2015
Strangerland- 6.5 out of 10!
What Happens In The Outback, Stays There
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