One thing that people can always count on is a good performance by Laura Linney. She brings a certain gravitas and depth to roles that otherwise would be pretty superficial. Linney (Breach, Man of the Year) also enjoys hopping genres, often making multiple movies a year, hopping from mainstream movies to smaller independent ones and back. Jindabyne is based on Raymond Carver's short story So Much Water So Close to Home, and features another standout performance by Linney in an ambitious film that tries to cram a lot into a film that doesn't quite know how to handle it all. It is the most recent film by Ray Lawrence (Bliss), who garnered many fans with his last film Lantana. Lawrence and adapter Beatrix Christian try to explore the same emotional depths in Jindabyne, but it often feels like they are stretching a bit.

The central emotional dilemma surrounds four men, Stewart Kane (Gabriel Byrne, Wah-Wah, Assault on Precinct 13), Carl (John Howard, Take Away, Japanese Story), Billy (Simon Stone), and Rocco (Stelios Yiakmis, The Last Tattoo) who discover a body of a dead woman on their annual weekend fishing trip. The problem is, they discover the body on a Friday, but decide to keep fishing, and report the body when they return. The sheer callousness of their actions is reprehensible, but the men cannot seem to understand why there is such a big fuss about the issue.

Claire Kane (Linney), Stewart's wife, looks for answers for his actions but receives none. Their marriage is already strained, and Claire, an American, searches for a sense of closure for this issue while everybody else wants to ignore it, hoping it will go away. Worse is that the victim was an aborigine, and continuing tensions between the local aborigine population and the whites festers. There is criticism that the actions of Kane and his friends treated the woman this way because she was an aborigine. Claire tries to reconcile, but the family of the deceased wants nothing to do with her.

Lawrence also throws in elements of mysticism. The town of Jindabyne was relocated a few generations ago. The original town now lies underneath a large lake. The aboriginal population also believes that by leaving the woman in the river and fishing, the men have stopped her journey to the afterworld. He tries to throw in even more with Claire's issues after her pregnancy, their troubles with their son and mother-in-law, and troubles with Billy's granddaughter. The acting is good, and having somebody like Byrne, who is gruff, terse, and unwilling to open up here, as a foil to Linney was a good choice. The purpose was to have all of these threads come together to show how damaged the entire community is. Instead, it feels like Lawrence is stretching, trying to connect too many things.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 3 minutes, Rated R for disturbing images, language, and some nudity.

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