Galveston County – The Daily News
July 10, 2015
First time feature film director Kim Farrant paints a striking portrait of family distraught over the disappearance of their children. “Strangerland” isn’t a horror film, but it might as well be, as the mysterious thriller keeps the audience guessing, offering up various small hints that keep the plot contained throughout. Oscar nominee Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge”, “The Paddington”) returns to her Aussie and independent roots giving one of her more fascinating, multidimensional performances. Joseph Fiennes (“Elizabeth”, “Hercules”) and Hugo Weaving (“Matrix”, “Lord of the Rings”) also provide excellent character work in this film that borders on psycho sexual secrets that won’t appease audiences looking for a conclusive ending.
The Parker family have left the city, following a damaging embarrassment with their 15-year-old daughter Lily (Maddison Brown) and her teacher. Starting over in a small dusty town, the oversexualized teen is already trying to use as many of the restless local boys as she can find. Lily’s younger brother, Tommy, (Nicholas Hamilton) also has been known to sleep walk due to insomnia. However, on an ordinary school day their mother, Catherine (Kidman), wakes to find both children missing, alerting father Matthew (Fiennes) at work in the local pharmacy. Detective David Rae (Weaving) begins searching for the missing children following a dust storm and quickly discovers there is more going on in the Parker family than meets the eye.
“Strangerland” doesn’t lean on the psychological aspect when addressing the mother’s seemingly passed on sexual behavior to the daughter as much as it should. Many of the scenes that address this “sickness” seem out of place and detached from the rest of the plot line. The script also toys with the idea of Aborigine legend and “old ways” as a possible explanation to the disappearance. In fact, the film is consistently active in keeping the audience guessing which plot line the story will take toward a conclusion. Yet this isn’t really a story about missing children as much as it is behavior and circumstance. The father is presented to be concerned with social appearances while the mother, with the safety of the children. “She didn’t get it from me,” Matthew responds to his wife in an accusatory demeanor.
There are hints of “Deliverance” in the mannerisms and the sexual nature of various characters found in “Strangerland”. The young men and the women in the Parker family all seem to have a hunger that cannot be satisfied. That hunger, mixed with the pain and confusion of a mother, allows Kidman to explore something very unsettling and haunting as an actress. The confinement of the location and the vast unknown in the outback as presented on screen, making the characters feel helpless to the situation. At no point can the audience concretely explain how this story might end and that makes it very exciting for movie fans bored with the mundane plots of American films.
Final Thought — Authentically suspenseful.