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Stewart Kane, an Irishman living in the Australian town of Jindabyne, is on a fishing trip in isolated hill country with three other men when they discover the body of a murdered girl in the river. Rather than return to the town immediately, they continue fishing and report their gruesome find days later. Stewart's wife Claire is the last to find out. Deeply disturbed by her husband's action, her faith in her relationship with Stewart is shaken to the core. She wants to understand and tries to make things right. In her determination to help the victim's family Claire sets herself not only against her own family and friends but also those of the dead girl. Her marriage is taken to the brink and her peaceful life with Stewart and their young son hangs in the balance. The story of a murder and a marriage - a film about the things that haunt us. Written by
The 'P' plate that is taken by the murderer from the young girl's concealed vehicle, is one of Australia's provisional licence placards. A person who has just got their licence is on P plates for 3 years and have certain restrictions. See more »
At one stage a news report about a Cyclone Ingrid airs. The graphic behind the newsreader is missing the second "c" from cyclone. See more »
We don't step over bodies in order to enjoy our leisure activities. You're a pack of bloody idiots. I'm ashamed of you. The whole town's ashamed of you.
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This is an intriguing, evocative and multilayered film superbly acted and wonderfully filmed (mostly in single takes, it seems). It is also rather slow and meandering, and problematic. The basic plot could be set almost anywhere failure of personal relationships in the context of a failure of civic duty, but Ray Lawrence has chosen to adapt Raymond Carver's short story of the fishermen who took their time over reporting finding a woman's body to a highly specific place, Jindabyne, NSW, and to include the vexed question of black/white relationships in Australia.
As is pointed out in one of those awful cheery 1960s documentary being shown to the kids in the local primary school, the present day Jindabyne is a "second chance" sort of place, the old town having disappeared under the waters of Lake Jindabyne during the creation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, though at very low water levels the old church steeple is said to poke out of the water. Unfortunately, as we are shown in the opening sequence there is still evil in the new town in the shape of the local electrician (Chris Heywood, very nasty), who likes to hunt and kill young women. It is his victim's body the four fishing buddies, Stewart, Carl, Rocco and Billy, find in the stream, tie to a log, fish for a day, and then the next morning decide to raise the alarm.
When it becomes public that the four delayed reporting their find to go fishing (why didn't they lie about when they found the body?) there is a predictable uproar. The dead woman was aboriginal and the local aboriginals are particularly upset since they see this as symptomatic of whitey attitudes). Rocco's aboriginal girlfriend is not impressed. But the greatest emotional impact falls on Stewart (an Irishman) and his American wife Claire whose relationship is already rocky.
At one point I thought Claire was going to crack the case, but instead we get a literally hazy scene where some kind of reconciliation between black and white is attempted. After seeing the superb "Ten Canoes" recently I found the whole aboriginal storyline contrived. What I did think was very powerful and affecting was the portrayal of a damaged marriage. Gabriel Byrne does not put a foot wrong as Stewart, an ordinary bloke resigned to what little emotional comfort he can get from his family, and Laura Linney gives great depth to her role as his wife Claire, a woman for whom motherhood is a daunting task.
The rest of the cast are fine. Debra-Lee Furness as Carl's wife Jude makes a dislikeable character understandable, John Howard as Carl puts in a solid performance and there are two good performances from child actors Eva Lazzaro as Jude's disturbed granddaughter, and Sean Rees-Wemyss as Stewart and Claire's son Tom.
Ray Lawrence clearly did not set out to create a crime story but he certainly shows that crime can have some unexpected collateral damage. He also has contributed to the "Cinema of Unease", a phrase Sam Neill once used to describe New Zealand cinema, by setting a story about personal and public guilt in such a glorious setting.
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