Synopsis: A family finds their dull life in a rural outback town rocked after their two teenage children disappear into the desert, sparking disturbing rumors of their past.
Release Date: July 10, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Thriller
Nicole Kidman is quickly becoming the female Nicolas Cage. Her role choices of the last few years have been baffling. She’s starred (with Cage) in Joel Schumacher’s awful faux-heist movie Trespass, Chan-wook Park’s amazing fringe-horror masterpiece Stoker, the Hitchcockian thriller Before I Go to Sleep, and the charming adaptation of the children’s classic Paddington, and that’s just a small sampling of her prolific output. Although the quality of her movies may be inconsistent, one thing that is consistent is Kidman’s performances; she brings all she has to every role she takes, no matter what it is. Unfortunately, no actress is an island, and her presence is not enough to save the Australian mystery/drama Strangerland.
Strangerland stars Kidman as Catherine Parker, a woman who, along with her husband, Matthew (The Games Maker‘s Joseph Fiennes), has just moved to a remote town in the Australian outback with their two children, Lily (Maddison Brown from Go Big) and Tommy (Captain Fantastic‘s Nicholas Hamilton). One day, the couple wakes up to find that both of their children have disappeared. A detective named David Rae (Hugo Weaving from Cloud Atlas) is assigned to the case, and as he investigates, he begins to uncover all of the family’s secrets, including the big one which led to the family’s relocation to the isolated township. Along with the Detective Rae, Cath and Matthew frantically search for their kids, knowing that the longer they are gone, the lower their chances for survival will be.
Directed by documentary filmmaker Kim Farrant (Naked on the Inside, The Secret Side of Me), Strangerland is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma, and that’s not just referring to the plot. The screenplay, written by Michael Kinirons (who is known for short films like Lowland Fell and Treeclimber) and Fiona Seres (a television writer who has worked on “Tangle” and “Dangerous”), unfolds slowly, but not very deliberately. The mystery of the two children’s disappearance leads to the reveal of the true reason for the family’s move to the secluded town in the first place, so it’s a double mystery. It’s just one that really isn’t interesting enough to solve.
But the mystery isn’t the only confounded conundrum in Strangerland. The film itself is shrouded in confusion, from the very first phantom voiceover that opens the film (is it Cath? Lily? Some other mysterious faceless female voice?) to the confusing-as-all-hell ending. At first, it seems that the movie is trying to be ambiguous and artsy, forcing the viewer to wait with bated breath for a huge revelation that will put the rest of the film into context. At the risk of spoiling the movie, it never comes, so the audience is left confused and unsatisfied.
The blame for Strangerland‘s failure rests squarely on the script and the director. Not even some wonderful cinematography, a stirring score, and a trio of better than average performances by Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, and Hugo Weaving can save the movie from its own dust storm of perplexity.
Strangerland was shot on location in Australia by cinematographer P.J. Dillon (“Vikings” and “Penny Dreadful”), and it looks every bit the part. It has a very retro vibe, making liberal use of the Australian countryside so that it has a look and feel to it that is very much like the Australian classics of the seventies, movies such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Wake in Fright, and Walkabout – there are even segments that recall more exploitative Aussie films like Mad Max and Razorback. Dillon captures the Australian outback in sweeping landscape shots that emphasize the isolation and desperation of the little town in which Strangerland is set, bringing out both the natural beauty and the hidden danger of the surrounding areas. Dillon also gets to get a little creative in a few places, particularly with a handful of dream sequences which contribute some of the most haunting imagery in the film. It really is quite stunningly shot; if there’s one sure-fire reason to see Strangerland, it is P.J. Dillon’s photography.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Kim Farrant
- Producer(s): Macdara KelleherNaomi Wenck
- Screenwriter(s): Fiona SeresMichael Kinirons
- Cast: Nicole Kidman (Catherine Parker)Joseph Fiennes (Matthew Parker)Hugo Weaving (Detective David Rae) Maddison Brown (Lily Parker)Nicholas Hamilton (Tommy Parker)
- Editor(s): Veronika Jenet
- Cinematographer: P.J. Dillon
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s): Nikki Barrett
- Music Score: Keefus Ciancia
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: AustraliaIreland