Tuesday, June 5, 2007
JINDABYNE (2006) - Ray Lawrence
Raymond Carver's short story 'So Much Water. So Close To Home' had previously been made into the film Short Cuts by Robert Altman. Now, Australian director, Ray Lawrence has taken the story and transplanted it to Australia in the film Jindabyne.
Jindabyne is a small town in New South Wales in Australia. It's the kind of town where everyone knows everyone else's business. Stewart Kane (Gabriel Byrne), an Irishman, lives in the town with his wife Claire (Laura Linney) and their young son, Tom. While on a fishing trip with three friends, Stewart discovers the body of a young girl, murdered and dumped in the isolated mountain river. Instead of immediately reporting the discovery, the four men continue their fishing trip and report the body to the authorities later. The townspeople are horrified at the actions of the four men. Claire is especially affected by her husband's actions and, against the will of her family and friends, tries to heal the rift between the town of Jindabyne and the aboriginal family the dead girl belonged to.
Jindabyne is a fascinating, morally complex film about what people do to make themselves feel alive and console themselves with actions they have taken in the past. The story focuses mostly on Claire, who, having abandoned Stewart to look after their son in the boy's first eighteen months, is struggling to come to terms not only with her husband's actions, but also the guilt she feels. Laura Linney is brilliant as Claire and plays her with intensity that builds almost to a frenzy as she searches for a way to connect to the dead girl's family. Gabriel Byrne is on top form. It's a difficult part to play. Stewart is clearly affected at the discovery of the body, yet the idyllic setting of the river makes him feel alive when he continues his trip. Then he must deal with the horror and repulsion his wife goes through when the truth of their discovery is revealed.
The script, by Beatrix Christian, for the most part is quite good. There are a few subplots that seem unnecessary, including one about Tom, and his friend Caylin-Calandria, which seemed to me to be the focus of the film in the opening scenes. However, the film is very strong when concentrating on the relationship between Stewart and Claire. Ray Lawrence's direction is excellent, creating a feeling of intimacy between the characters, yet capturing the stunning Australian countryside at the same time. While the film is unsettling, it is a powerful character study and worth investigating.