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STRANGERLAND (review)

strangerlandSTRANGERLAND

Written by Michael Kinirons & Fiona Seres

Directed by Kim Farrant

Starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes & Hugo Weaving

Lily Parker:  Touch, in the dark…no one can see. Touch, in the dark…you touch me.

New director Kim Farrant took on tricky subject matter for STRANGERLAND, her first feature film. Rather than go for a straightforward drama or romance, she chose to make a movie about grief. More specifically, she wanted to address the strange behaviours that can sometimes manifest in those trying to come to terms with grief. Inspired by the sense of sorrow and loss she experienced following the passing of her father, Farrant worked with writer Fiona Seres (The Lady Vanishes) to develop a story centered on a troubled family unit and the lives that become turned upside down when the children suddenly go missing.

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Catherine Parker (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Matthew (Joseph Fiennes, American Horror Story) have an odd relationship. He’s a pharmacist with a short fuse and little patience for his family and she’s a rather melodramatic housewife who hates the fact that she and her husband now have separate bedrooms. They’ve just relocated to the (fictional) remote Australian town of Nathgari with their two teenage children in an attempt to escape a mysterious past the audience is not immediately privy to. 15-year-old Lily (played by another newcomer, Maddison Brown) clearly causes them much concern and adds to the strain on their marriage. Using the hot climate of their new neighbourhood as an excuse to walk around mostly naked, Lily spends her days in pursuit of male attention, willing to go as far as it takes to secure it. Worried for her safety but unable to control their daughter, Catherine and Matthew rely on their younger child, Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) to keep an eye on his sister.

Everything changes one night when, with a sandstorm imminent, Lily and Tommy disappear into the desert. Local detective David Rae (Hugo Weaving, THE MATRIX) takes on the case of finding the missing children as their parents are forced to face the issues that have been bubbling under the surface of their fragmented life for years.

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It’s a tall order for Farrant, and does she meet the challenge? Not really. The topic she has chosen to examine is absolutely a fascinating one, and expressions of grief differ from one person to the next. There are no rules as to how one should experience feelings of mourning, and had this film been done properly, it could certainly provide interesting insight into the human psyche. But at the end of the day, STRANGERLAND is lacking. It has an admirable cast and enough of a hook to be semi-interesting, at least initially. But that’s where much of the appeal ends. The characters become more weird and annoying than relatable, and it’s difficult to muster sufficient empathy to actually care what happens to any of them. The story has much build up with very little reward and often drags.

On the other hand, if you’ve ever wondered what Nicole Kidman would look like wandering through the Australian outback buck naked, here’s your opportunity.

2.5 sheep

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