Director: Ray Lawrence
“I once caught a fish this big.” Fishermen are famous for their embellished tall tales of adventure on the high seas or in the quest for the biggest catch of the day. But Stewart Kane (Gabriel Byrne) and his three male friends get much more than they bargained for with this haunting tale that’s so filled with quiet lurking menace and existential questioning that not even Ernest Hemingway would have dared to tell it. And indeed Hemingway did not—based on the story “So Much Water So Close to Home” by Raymond Carver that was first adapted and woven into the meandering, compelling yet overrated Short Cuts by Robert Altman, this time the setting is moved to the desolate, windy fields in Jindabyne, Australia. Lantana director Ray Lawrence helms this harrowing tale based on scripter Beatrix Christian’s work which finds four men justifiably ostracized by their community and accused of moral bankruptcy after they discover the nude murdered body of attractive teenager Susan (Tatea Reilly) on Friday, yet wait days later when they’re set to leave their fishing expedition before phoning the police. How could four very different but grown adult men behave in such a shocking way? Issues of racism and sexism are raised as the victim was not only female but also Aboriginal and the aftermath finds both marriage and family bonds put to the test, especially in the home of our main characters Gabriel Byrne and his wife Laura Linney who share a small yet emotionally overcrowded house with their young son and Byrne’s overbearing mother. Even more unsettling in the film’s narrative is the fact that Susan’s killer is hiding in plain sight and aside from the general feeling of unease we have in watching the disintegration of characters’ facades that crumble after the unspeakable horror, director Lawrence avoids going with a typical thriller mode by never resolving the murder or even showing an attempt to locate the “thriller” aspect which, if the film had been made in America may not have simply been the main plotline but you can guess that Byrne and Linney would have tracked down the man with guns blazing. While it shouldn’t be that simple, not even addressing the foul play in Jindabyne is far more unbelievable than the concept of people in contemporary society so desensitized to violence that they’d be able to tether a victim to a tree and continue on their merry way—not to perhaps catch a fish “this” big but to avoid an even bigger body that reminds them of their unimportance in the scheme of things in the vast, unforgiving Australian environment.