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Stars: Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Deborah Lee-Furness, John Howard, Leah Purcell, Stelios Yanakis, Chris Haywood, Alice Garner, Betty Lucas, Sean Rees-Wemyss, Eva Lazzaro

Director: Ray Lawrence

Lawrence’s forceful film begins starkly and scarily with a trucker brutally murdering a young Aboriginal woman in an isolated area of New South Wales. But what begins as a grim thriller fascinatingly segues into a powerful psychodrama catalysed by the discovery of the dead girl's body by four men, led by Byrne, who appallingly tether the corpse to a tree while they continue their weekend fishing break. Their callous and inexplicable action triggers off mounting emotional turmoil between Byrne and his wife Linney that threatens to destroy their already shaky marriage and creates racial tension between the white and Aboriginal inhabitants of the small town of Jindabyne.

It says much for the excellence of the screenplay (Beatrix Christian, from a short story by Raymond Carver), the even higher quality of Lawrence’s direction and the fine acting of the perfectly-chosen cast that what might simply have been another by-numbers hothouse story of contemporary racialism, of the kind so beloved by high-minded American movies, emerges instead as fresh and utterly compelling. Carver and his cinematographer David Williamson make telling use of well-chosen Australian locations to establish convincing characterisation and motivation. Linney and Byrne are superb; there are no weak performances in a powerful, happily cliche-free movie that vividly exposes what lies beneath the “WELCOME TO JINDABYNE. A TIDY TOWN” sign that opens the film.

Alan Frank

Australia 2006. UK Distributor: Revolver. Colour by Atlab.
123 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 22 May 2007