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Guilt and how it affects the lives of those it surrounds seems to be a big factor in the writings of Raymond Carver. A few of his short stories were interweaved together a while back by Robert Altman in his masterpiece Short Cuts. One of those stories caught the attention of Australian filmmaker Ray Lawrence who’s very Aussie Lantana was an enjoyable film that came out six years ago. With this new entry, Jindabyne, Lawrence has taken this tale, about a group of fisherman that stumble across a dead body and decide to finish their vacation before reporting her corpse to the authorities, and made it wholly Australian, complete with subplots involving the fragility of life, the malleable hold of friendship and family, and the politics between the white population and the indigenous one of country. All in all, I would put this film on par with his previous effort. It is a sight to behold, and the way he expanded on the story to make it his own is admirable. When all is said and done, however, the artistry and acting don’t completely overcome the plodding pace and choppy progression separated by numerous fade-outs after scenes of just a couple minutes length.

The act of leaving this girl in the river that they found her in for three days while they continued fishing becomes a situation that not only effects their own lives, but the lives of the entire community. This selfish act could have been prevented very easily. What ends up happening is that upon their return home, they are looked upon as cowards and uncompassionate monsters. The family of the deceased becomes incensed about the body’s desecration, believing that her being indigenous was the reason they felt they could wait. While this event is the crux of the film, what really matters is how this misstep in judgment effects the lives of those involved, and helps bring up buried emotions and feelings that had long been dormant within. Everyone’s faults are soon thrown in each other’s faces, excuses are made up, and relationships are torn apart. One act by a person does have the possibility of changing how others look at him; most times it happens for the worst.

All the acting is top-notch. Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne are fantastic as usual, showing a strained marriage and flawed character traits on their sleeves while also portraying the deep-seeded love they have for one another. Some questions about why they did things in their pasts are often mentioned, and sometimes seem to be finally solved, but never are. This is one of the detriments to the movie as a whole; we are treated to so many tales that help us see who these people are, but we never get the whole story. As a result, the film seems incomplete in many regards. The cast is rounded off with many actors that are recognizable if their names are unknown. Everyone plays their part to perfection, and the emotions run high and true throughout.

Jindabyne’s real point of success is the beautiful cinematography. It is true that many of these gorgeous exposition shots slow the story down to a crawl, but either way they are a wonder to behold. The mountain and river moments are a glorious sight as well as moments like Linney swimming from underwater. With angled framing and carefully orchestrated composition, you can’t fault this movie on its visuals. The entire funeral scene is shot so well that I almost forgot completely what I found wrong with all that came before it. The smoke, the singing, and the tension of asking for forgiveness really end the story on a powerful note. Unfortunately all is brought back to reality with the final short shot of the killer, who appears throughout the course of the film. This scene reminds you about how no matter how many things were great, the film just didn’t have the consistency of tone needed to make the sum as great as some of its parts.

Jindabyne 6/10

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photography:
[1] Laura Linney as Claire Kane. Photo by Matt Nettheim © April Films (JINDABYNE) P/L 2006, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics. All Right Reserved.
[2] Gabriel Byrne as Stewart Kane, Stelios Yiakmis as Rocco, John Howard as Carl and Simon Stone as Billy. Photo by Anthony Browell © April Films (JINDABYNE) P/L 2006, courtesy Sony Pictures Classics. All Right Reserved.

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