Under the Radar Mag
Cody Ray Shafer
July 9, 2015
In the Australian outback, the Parker family tries to blend in with their new community, but the unthinkable draws some unwanted attention. Strangerland is the first feature-length narrative from Kim Farrant, a mystery involving the Parker family—headed by Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes—and a local police officer (Hugo Weaving) who entangles himself in their lives during an investigation.
Strangerland builds tension far past its breaking point. Matthew Parker’s (Fiennes) wish that his family’s secrets do not turn into the town gossip inevitably comes back to haunt him. But this is a story about a family that has long fallen apart, and the two storms that bookend the narrative—one dust and the other rain—are merely tests of the Parkers’ endurance. Ultimately, the Parkers must confront their doubts about their family, and examine their own mistakes.
The film is beautiful, and the vast outback is depicted so vividly it becomes a character on its own, the desert that looms over the characters and threatens their sanity. Atompshere is important for a film like this, and it helps when the filmmaker is equipped to maximize their surroundings. Farrant does precisely this by suggesting motion in the mountains and valleys, pulling away landscapes to reveal greater expanses. The strangers implied by the title might refer to the Parkers themselves, and how far they’ve gone from understanding each other as a family, but it also perfectly describes the uncertainty and ambiguity of nature. Strangerland is an intense experience, but also an impressive one, exploring themes of trust and honesty while restraining itself from revealing too much.
Author rating: 8/10