Strangerland (2015)

Strangerland (2015)
  • Time: 112 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Kim Farrant
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Joseph Fiennes


Newcomers to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, Catherine and Matthew Parker’s lives are flung into crisis when they discover their two teenage kids, Tommy and Lily, have mysteriously disappeared just before a massive dust storm hits. With Nathgari eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the townsfolk join the search led by local cop, David Rae. It soon becomes apparent that something terrible may have happened to Tommy and Lily. Suspicions run riot, rumours spread and public opinion turns savagely against the Parkers. With temperatures rising and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink as they struggle to survive the mystery of their children’s fate.


  • First there were four in the Australian mystery drama Strangerland. Those four are the Parkers, recently transplanted to the fictional town of Nathgari, and they are a family already in crisis.

    Young Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) wanders during the night to quell his sleeplessness. Older sister Lily (Maddison Brown) raises the ire of her uptight pharmacist father Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) by displaying acres of flesh in barely there outfits. Imagine what Matthew might do if he learned that she was sleeping with the local skater boys and Burtie (Meyne Wyatt), the next-door neighbour’s mentally challenged younger brother who also serves as the Parkers’ repairman.

    Matthew is unsettled by Lily’s sexuality, perhaps reacting as any father would. Yet we soon learn of another reason: a past scandal involving Lily and her married professor that motivated the family’s relocation to this remote desert outpost, a move which has resulted in a professional step back for Matthew. His daughter’s rebellious impudence and her increasing uncontrollability may be on his mind when he sees Lily and Tom sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. It may be Lily’s past schemings – she once disappeared for a couple of days and then returned home as if nothing had happened – that explain Matthew’s calm in the face of his wife Catherine’s (Nicole Kidman) mounting worry at being unable to locate their children the next morning.

    Or is Matthew’s subdued reaction an indication of something far more sinister? He seems to vacillate between bursts of aggression (beating up men who may have slept with his daughter) and a sort of inertia, the latter providing an extremely perilous threat to his already fragile marriage as Catherine, in the throes of grief, is desperate for sexual comfort. Catherine hungers to be touched, her own sexuality coming to the forefront much to the dismay of Matthew, who already blames her former wantonness for Lily’s promiscuity. “She didn’t get it from me,” he lashes at Catherine.

    Kim Farrant, making her first feature film after a string of well-received documentaries and shorts, clearly wants to explore something primal and elemental in the way people react to, and are often undone by, tragedy. In general, Farrant succeeds in her mission thanks to cinematographer P.J. Dillon, whose stunning overhead shots of the almost unreal and unyielding terrain lend a mythical quality to the drama. This use of landscape as an enigmatic character places Strangerland in the same category as Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout, two Australian classics that also revolve around youngsters disappearing or getting lost in the seemingly limitless expanse that is the Australian outback. Strangerland does not quite enter their rarefied circle. The story, written by Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons, verges on the overwrought and its various elements – murder mystery, marital drama, commentary on female sexuality – do not meld together as smoothly as they should.

    Still, there is much to recommend Strangerland. In addition to Dillon’s remarkable lensing, there is Keefus Ciancia’s insinuatingly ominous score, solid supporting turns by Wyatt and Lisa Flanagan as his sister, and a fiercely committed performance by Kidman, who reunites with her Bangkok Hilton co-star Hugo Weaving. That superior Australian miniseries was a quarter of a century ago, and a prime example of Kidman’s immense talents. Kidman and Weaving share a lovely chemistry, their characters connecting over their respective losses. Weaving, as the local police officer Rae, understands Catherine in a way her husband does not. Perhaps it’s because Rae and Catherine possess a sensuality Matthew does not. Whatever the case, Weaving is a far more formidable partner for the ferocious Kidman than Fiennes, who fails to get a firm grasp on his character and thus all but fades into the background in her presence.

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  • The best things about this movie are the cinematography, the acting (despite the lame script) and the beautiful and haunting outback locales. The story is so strung out…so stretched. The whole thing could have been told in 30 minutes. As it is the story is padded out with long and luxurious takes of the outback, the stereotypical outback town (of which there are very few these days) and the side story of Kidman’s character losing it big time.

    Do not waste your time or money on this movie. It’s extremely slow and nothing is explained except that the desert takes children sometimes.

    It meanders around, with no discernible ending. The mother and stepfather go nowhere in this story. Only thing I can tell was the mother was a whore and the stepfather was unemotional.

    You never find out what happened to the daughter other than she got into a car. 2 hours wasted.

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