By: Addison Wylie
The characters in the Australian/Ireland import Strangerland are surrounded by miles of flatland. The tattered town of Nathgari maintain a tight community, yet there is a sense of feeling forlorn and stranded. Newly minted feature filmmaker Kim Farrant uses these qualities to effectively stir up restlessness and sputtering hope when her story of missing children is in full swing.
Catherine and Matthew (played by Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) are still adapting to the thinly populated town, and so are their children Tommy and Lily (played by Nicholas Hamilton and Maddison Brown). However, Catherine and Matthew put their lives on hold when their children go missing. Lily, a promiscuous rebel, is thought to have taken off with the wrong crowd, but the air grows more dreary when the circumstances become increasingly dire.
Despite Strangerland nailing its silenced, slow burn panic with Farrant successfully spinning a web of paranoia and mystery amongst the townsfolk, Strangerland takes a very long time to say hardly anything at all.
The film’s screenplay (written by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres) goes pages and pages without much going on. When we see Catherine discover a new lead or an update on a clue (usually with the help of detective David Rae, played by Hugo Weaving), our interest spikes. But, for most of the time, Strangerland plods along through thick, bleak ambiguity while the frame fills with drab stoicalness from its fatigued characters. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to sit through Farrant’s film a second time. It’s exhausting and unrewarding.
Kidman, Fiennes, and Weaving try and work through the meagre writing, but they can only do so much fighting before Strangerland’s lollygagging acts as a sinking weight. All three performers earn our respect for trying something a little different with their careers (especially Kidman who goes against her usual Hollywood image), but we quietly hope their next project will offer more material for them to work with and less plates to spin.