Jindabyne

Jindabyne

2006, R, 123 min. Directed by Ray Lawrence. Starring Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Chris Haywood, Deborra-Lee Furness, John Howard, Leah Purcell, Eva Lazzaro, Sean Rees-Wemyss.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 1, 2007

Australian director Lawrence, who scored an arthouse hit six years ago with the psychological suspense drama Lantana, returns to somewhat familiar terrain with this follow-up, Jindabyne. Both films examine the often tenuous fabric that unites husbands and wives and how a small tear in that cloth can start the complete dishevelment of the relationship. Jindabyne, however, never manages to get its relationships framed in as sharp focus as Lantana and goes down some unproductive side roads in its attempt to get to the point. The film's haziness might be easily attributed to the fact that it is based on Raymond Carver's 1977 short story "So Much Water So Close to Home" (which also provided material for one of the chapters in Robert Altman's Short Cuts). This screen adaptation by Beatrix Christian adds some specifically Australian concerns to Carver's sketchy tale, which is essentially interested in the differences between men and women. Even the title, Jindabyne, refers to an Australian town that was created fresh in the 1960s when the old community was intentionally flooded and rebuilt nearby during engineering efforts to dam up the Snowy River. In the waters near the present-day Jindabyne, an entire lost city resides beneath the surface. In Lawrence's film, four men go on a weekend fishing trip during which they discover the corpse of a young woman floating in the water. They wait 48 hours, until the end of the weekend, before hiking back to "civilization" and informing the proper authorities. In turn, the police, the men's wives, and the community at large regard the men as callous and selfish louts, more concerned with their own well-being than that of the community's. Furthermore, the Australian aspect layers a racial overtone onto the proceeding by having the dead girl be aboriginal and arguing that the men might have behaved differently had the girl's skin been white. At the heart of the story is the couple, Stewart (Byrne) and Claire (Linney), whose marriage bears the brunt of the storm to come. Both Byrne, as the bedraggled working man who clearly sees this annual fishing trip as a high point of his year, and Linney, in particular, as his vaguely dissatisfied wife, are brilliant. Linney, as they say, could read the entire Australian phone book and keep a viewer rapt. Yet, as we gradually come to learn more about these characters, and follow Claire on her ill-thought-out quest to comfort the dead girl's family, Jindabyne gets offtrack, and even grows sluggish. Meanwhile, there's also still a killer on the loose, and Jindabyne loses its general sense of direction.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Laura Linney Films
The Dinner
Family ties come undone in this dark drama

Josh Kupecki, May 5, 2017

Nocturnal Animals
A dark meditation on regret and revenge

Marc Savlov, Nov. 18, 2016

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Nomadland
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Jindabyne, Ray Lawrence, Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Chris Haywood, Deborra-Lee Furness, John Howard, Leah Purcell, Eva Lazzaro, Sean Rees-Wemyss

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle