R | 112 min | Drama, Thriller
Review - Matt Mungle

Synopsis: When Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew Parkerís (Joseph Fiennes) two teenage children suddenly vanish in a dust storm, the coupleís relationship is pushed to the brink as they confront the mystery of their childrenís disappearance in the soaring desert heat. Also stars Hugo Weaving.

Review: STRANGERLAND starts off steeped in palpable tension. There is a sense of foreboding that engulfs the film and immediately puts the viewer on edge. The soundtrack helps ground the eeriness as well. These elements are vital for setting the stage early on. The characters are at obvious odds as they are introduced in a shroud of mystery. 

If this had been a horror film it could not have raised the hair on the back of your neck any quicker. But it isn't a horror film. In fact it is a solid drama that is intelligent in its writing and style. Kidman and Fiennes are a quality pairing. They are a couple straining at the seams to get away from their past and start anew. Under the surface you get the sense that they at a breaking point and worried at any minute things are going to go bad again. They almost expect it. Real people wear stress on their faces and both actors don it like a second skin. 

Hugo Weaving is the local detective brought in to investigate the missing children. He is thorough, smart, and fits in to the hot dusty landscape perfectly. He asks the hard questions and takes his job seriously. His character is written with broad strokes allowing Weaving to interpret and breath soul into it.

It is soon apparent that much of the families issues revolve around the 15 year old daughter Lilly (Maddison Brown). She is troubled and promiscuous which is a deadly combination in a bored sleepy town. Brown makes her film debut in this one and immediately captures the essence of Lilly. She plays her bravely and un-apologetically. This allows Kidman another range of emotion as the troubled mother watching her daughter spiral out of control. It is a heartbreaking situation.

This is a far from perfect film though and there are many instances when the characters opt for odd choices and make decisions that are Hollywood predictable. Especially Catherine. If this were a book then possibly we could get more into her thought process and understand the conclusions she draws upon. But in the time restraints of a film we lose the purpose and are only left with action. Also many may find the final payoff a tad disappointing

STRANGERLAND is rated R for language, some sexuality and brief graphic nudity. It is a very adult film in language, content, and themes; often dark, heavy, and smothering. It is well crafted and expertly acted. Some people prefer their cinematic outings to be a bit lighter and uplifting. Those who want unrelenting drama will appreciate this one. I give it 3.75 out of 5 dust storms. You can't make a steady diet of these type films but they are good to partake of from time to time.

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