Toronto Film Scene
July 10, 2015
Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parker (Joseph Fiennes) have moved themselves and their two teens, Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) and Lily (Maddison Brown) to the remote Australian town of Nathgari. The family is on edge as Lily seems to be acting out more and more, while the relationship between Catherine and Matthew is collapsing. As a powerful dust storm approaches the town, Catherine realizes that Tommy and Lily have gone missing. Frantic to find them, the locals begin to help with the search, including Detective David Rae (Hugo Weaving), who starts to find out a lot about the family and why they’ve moved to Nathgari.
Strangerland is a film filled with suggestions, something that can either help or hurt the film depending on the expectations of the audience. Years of watching films with a shocking twist will leave some viewers waiting for the inevitable surprise, taking away from the powerful performances within the film.
Kidman is once again at her best, although her role as the hysterical parent doing anything she can to protect her kids starts to feel familiar by the end of the film. The nearly two hour running time doesn’t help, and a little trimming may have helped the pace a little. Fiennes and Weaving are equally outstanding, both creating characters with secrets bubbling just below the surface. This leads to many of the suggestions of the film, some of which we never receive an answer for.
Hamilton and Brown perform well as the teens, but their disappearance early in the film leaves the heaviest moments for the adults. Their disappearance is simply the catalyst for deeper exploration of their family, and the horrible problems they have been trying to ignore. The search for the kids is what opens up old wounds, forcing Catherine and Matthew to look at their own relationship and the stability of their family.
Accusations start flying and the possibilities of what has happened and why start to overwhelm. The more we begin to understand about the Parker’s past, the more we wonder who has played a role in the kids going missing. The answers could be more simple than we imagine, but things are left wide open so viewers may be arguing long after the film has finished. Strangerland simply doesn’t offer an explanation for why these events have happened, only a variety of possibilities that leaves the final conclusion up to the viewer.
Great performances from everybody involved make this one to watch, although the ending, or lack of one, may leave a few viewers wishing there was more.
Strangerland opens Friday, July 10, 2015 at The Royal. Check their websitefor more information.