The Reel Bits
June 10, 2015
A gripping Australian drama that sees Nicole Kidman return to the local indie screen.
Documentarian Kim Farrant’s debut feature film might recall elements of Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout, in that both focus on children lost in the Australian outback, the similarities end there. STRANGERLAND focuses on parents Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parker (Joseph Fiennes), who have moved with their children Steve and Lily to the remote township of Nathgari. The marriage is a loveless one, fractured by some former scandal involving Lily that is only hinted at initially. When the children go missing, secrets emerge with the involvement of Detective David Rae (Hugo Weaving), uncovering the skeletons in their closets.
Resolutions don’t come easy in STRANGERLAND, but it is nevertheless a gripping film from start to finish. Against some gorgeous photography by P.J. Dillon (recently of TV’s Vikings), the leads work with a lightly scripted film, where it is more about visceral reaction than subtle character development. Kidman gives one of her finer performances as she descends into anguish, surprising us several times along the way with emotional, sexual and sometimes violent outbursts. Fiennes is restrained as the pharmacist husband, who exhibits an indifference that is equal parts frustrating and understated stoicism. Of particular note is Meyne Wyatt (Neighbours), who has a award-worthy performance as the intellectually disabled Bertie. There are certainly elements that don’t entirely work, including some tacked on rainbow serpent spiritualism in the back half of the film that strives for Picnic at Hanging Rock mystery. It’s a plot thread that seems redundant by the end, but it doesn’t detract from the emotionally raw and captivating journey this film takes us on.
2015 | Australia/Ireland | Dir: Kim Farrant | Writers: Fiona Seres, Michael Kinirons | Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Sean Keenan, Maddison Brown | Distributor: Transmission Films | Running time: 112 minutes | Rating:★★★★½ (9/10)