June 8, 2015
SYNOPSIS: New to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, the Parker family is thrown into crisis when Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) discover their two teenage kids Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) and Lily (Maddison Brown) have mysteriously disappeared just before a massive dust storm hits the town. With Nathgari now eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the locals join the search led by local cop, David Rae (Hugo Weaving). With temperatures rising and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Martin find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate.
Review by Louise Keller:
There’s a wonderful mood and sense of place about Kim Farrant’s debut feature set in the Australian outback, although the individual parts are more successful than the whole. With a screenplay by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres, the film boasts a dream cast; it is the central dysfunctional family that is the most successful element, beginning with the disappearance of the promiscuous teenage girl and her younger brother.
In the opening sequences as we meet Catherine (Nicole Kidman), Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) and their two kids Lily (Maddison Brown, striking) and Tom (Nicholas Hamilton, excellent), we immediately grasp that this is a family struggling to survive. Brown’s natural sensuality makes her perfect for the role as Lily, whose past behavior forces the family to relocate. Resentment, suspicion, fear and frustration are the emotions canvassed, with Kidman terrific as the frustrated wife and mother displaying maximum vulnerability, and Fiennes effective as the stitched up husband and father. There’s a nervous energy about both of them.
The scene in which Catherine seduces her husband while seated in the dining room, clearly indicates the non-compatible sexual drives of both participants, with Catherine’s unemotional detachment evident. The fact that there is little chemistry between Kidman and Fiennes works in the plot’s favour and as the film progresses and Catherine’s pent-up sexuality comes into focus, the parallels are drawn between mother and daughter. This plot strand is pushed beyond credibility and the fact that Catherine wears shapeless clothes for most of the film is at odds with the later expose – but perhaps that’s the point.
The scene in the car in which Hugo Weaving’s police officer Rae describes the portrait of his former marriage is one of the most touching moments; Weaving has great depth and heart. Reunited for the first time on screen since Bangkok Hilton (1989), there’s real chemistry between Weaving and Kidman. Key characters in the secondary story strands are Meyne Wyatt as Burtie, the young Aboriginal man who wouldn’t hurt a fly and Lisa Flanagan as his sister as well as Rae’s lover. Both are convincing.
P.J. Dillon’s cinematography shows off the harsh, Australian landscape to best advantage and the helicopter shots above the dramatic gorge that looks as though it has been painted in crayons, are stunning. The police search for the missing kids and the mystical elements sit awkwardly.
Strangerland is a film about being lost – in more ways than one. The film takes us a long way into the journey but never quite satisfies.