What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this short story-based film is a bleak study of human cruelty in the form of emotional sabotage and actual murder. There are many violent episodes -- from the opening sequence in which a serial killer stalks his prey to a scene in which two children kill a pet to an emotionally jarring exchange in which a husband and wife fight each other with words and fists. Racism also rears its nasty head, and there are disturbing close-ups of a murdered woman. Characters drink, smoke, and swear.
What's the story?
In the Australian ski town of Jindabyne, ex-race-car driver Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) now runs a local service station and is in the throes of staving off the panic that comes with age. He's also dealing with an atrophying marriage to his American wife, Claire (Laura Linney), who, years before, abandoned him for 18 months soon after giving birth to their son. She's back now, but only just. When Stewart and his friends Carl (John Howard), Rocco (Stelios Yiakmis), and Billy (Simon Stone) embark on a fishing expedition, they find a corpse ... and decide to let it float until they're done with their trip and ready to report it to the cops. And then the underlying issues that Stewart and Claire never quite addressed tend to submerge them once and for all.
Is it any good?
Linney masters the intoxicating mix of shock, rage, and isolation that engulfs Claire; her performance is equaled only by Byrne's slow burn. Their relationship is true to Raymond Carver's trademark broken twosomes. The damage they inflict on each other -- and on their child -- is nearly as murderous as the dead woman's killer's gruesome handiwork. Had Lawrence gone so far as to show Stewart and Claire break each other down to their bitter and oh-so-human essence, Jindabyne would have been more courageous for it.
The movie is based on Raymond Carver's lean, Spartan story "So Much Water So Close to Home." Cinematographer David Williamson hews close to Carver's voice -- spare, taut, forceful. Through Williamson's lens, the forces of nature, human and otherwise, threaten to disturb the peace. But director Ray Lawrence moves far beyond Carver's restrained look at choice and consequence, embracing displaced grief, animism, and racism. All of which makes for a fascinating and deeply distressing -- but unfortunately less potent -- adaptation.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how the media can vilify or anoint someone because of their choices. In some cases -- like the one presented in this movie, in which four men ignore a dead body until their vacation is done -- is it justified? If so, why? Does the film explain why the men decide to do what they did? Does it make sense? Is the reaction they get from their families understandable or outrageous? How do such moments bring some people closer and tear others apart?