To date, this is the only movie I've ever walked out on in the theater. I honestly didn't think I could rate anything less than Man of Steel, which had me fuming even while I was struggling to stay awake (not an easy feat, that).
We'll start with the good things about this feature to get it out of the way. Nicole Kidman is a superb actress and she reportedly accepted the role because of the emotional range potential. All around, the cast delivered what they could with the material they were given. Joseph Fiennes is great at playing a tortured, emotionally unstable asshole husband. Hugo Weaving gives a great turn in his role as well, even if he is introduced somewhat awkwardly and always seems like an afterthought. I had such high hopes for this movie in the first two minutes which establishes an eerie, mysterious mood right from the get-go along with some stunning shots of the Australian Outback. The idea of supporting Australian film encouraged me to try the film out, as well as experiencing the lens of first-time director Kim Farrant. The extreme long shots of the shimmering Australian country are some of the best visuals of this movie, showing both a strange and unforgivingly barren landscape.
The same, unfortunately, could be said for the story and the characters. We're given little to chew on, and what is thrown at us seems to be more to provoke rather than make any sense. The characters are around only so that we can see them be tortured by circumstance, and I kept saying to myself throughout the movie and even after: "I don't understand. I don't understand!" At no point did I understand the motivations, actions, or interactions of the characters. They were so out of the bounds of anything explicable, I wish I could say that it amazed me more than it angered me...but in truth, it did both. My movie date and I left after a particularly upsetting scene. To be fair for the review of this movie, only about a half hour was left in the feature...and we had no hope that anything remaining would be enough to redeem the rest of it.
I have little wish to get into the plot, but in truth, as Strangerland has gotten some rather good press from Sundance and other critics and so I feel an obligation to at least offer a fair consideration of the movie. Kidman and Fiennes play a couple who have recently moved to a small town in Australia with their two children -- one a wildly promiscuous 15-year old Lily, and a precocious younger Tom who takes to wandering the town at night when he can't sleep. What is already a shaky foundation is pushed even further when the two children disappear the day before the town is engulfed in a dust storm. Future suspicions mix with past incrimination as husband and wife, the town, and the local law enforcement doubt and turn on each other.
Does this sound intriguing? Don't be fooled; I thought the same thing. Don't go see this movie. Stay in. Put something on Netflix rather than suffer through this movie that just makes your insides chew themselves out for no good reason. As my movie date said: "If you're going to make a movie it should be a little more than 'some people are terrible, also Australia.'"
Playing at SIFF
May 17 - 9:45 PM (SIFF Cinema Egyptian)
June 2 - 8:30 PM (Kirkland Performance Center)