Jindabyne, in the southeast section of New South Wales, was moved to its current site from its original site upon the building of a hydroelectric dam, the resulting reservoir, Lake Jindabyne, which now sits atop the original townsite. Among its residents are a group of friends who socialize together: married Stewart and Claire, a service station owner/former race car driver and a pharmacist respectively, and their school age son Tommy; married Carl and Jude, who have been guardians to their granddaughter Caylin-Calandria, Tommy's friend and disruptive classmate, ever since her mother's passing; Rocco and his new aborigine girlfriend, Carmel, a teacher at Tommy and Caylin-Calandria's school; and young parents Billy and Elissa, Billy who works casually as a mechanic for Stewart. Despite Stewart and Claire loving each other, there has long been disharmony in their household. Claire left for eighteen months following Tommy's birth due to post-partum depression. Then, Stewart's mother ...Written by
The screenplay is based on the short story "So much water so close to home" by American writer Raymond Carver. The song "Everything's Turning to White" by Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly was also inspired by Carver's story. 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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