Jindabyne - a sleepy little Australian town surrounded by mile upon mile of wild country. It's picturesque and spacious. Life is tough and the people have their share of problems, but a strong community spirit enables them to muddle through. Then, one afternoon, four men on a fishing trip find the body of a young Aboriginal woman floating in the river, and everything starts to fall apart.

At the heart of Jindabyne's moral complexity is the failure of the men who find the body to immediately report it to the police. Whether due to shock or cold-heartedness - it's never really clear which - they tether it in the water and continue with their eagerly anticipated fishing weekend, inventing a story about a sprained ankle to justify the delay. Nobody is fooled. Facing social ostracism, they try to deal with the shock of their discovery in isolation, which in turn has a dramatic effect on their personal relationships. Racial tensions develop where there had been seeming unity. Not having known the dead woman, the townspeople struggle to deal with their feelings of grief and their uncertainty as to the appropriateness of those feelings. And all along, though no one dares to discuss it, there is a creeping terror which comes from the awareness of a murderer nearby.

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A complex and potent drama, Jindabyne hinges on powerful performances from Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney as the couple at the centre of events - though, of course, the real centre ought to be the dead woman and her family, another factor which complicates matters. Linney's stubborn but fragile Claire becomes obsessed with connection and the desire to reconcile her husband with the dead woman's family, who just want to be left alone to deal with their private grief. The awkwardness of her behaviour makes for difficult viewing, yet there is a depth and warmth to all these characters which manages to engage our sympathy. Whilst the fishermen gradually come to understand their responsibility to others, Claire must learn to focus on her own life. Meanwhile, her young son has a journey of his own to undertake, assisted by a withdrawn orphaned girl who has murderous intentions towards the school guinea pig.

Richly atmospheric and often deeply disturbing, Jindabyne is a superb example of well-crafted drama, cinema taking on real issues without ever losing its narrative edge. It illustrates the consequences of murder almost without addressing the subject directly, and its exploration of personhood offers a deeper understanding of that single violent act than any number of crime thrillers. Though there is a timeless quality about it, its examination of the human need for somebody to blame is sharply relevant today. Highly recommended.

Reviewed on: 07 May 2007
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A close-knit Australian community is rocked when four men discover a murder victim’s corpse and do nothing about it.
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Read more Jindabyne reviews:

Jeff Robson ****
George Williamson ****

Director: Ray Lawrence

Writer: Raymond Carver, Beatrix Christian

Starring: Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, Chris Haywood, Deborra-Lee Furness, John Howard, Leah Purcell, Eva Lazzero, Sean Rees-Wemyss, Alice Garner, Simon Stone, Betty Lucas, Max Cullen, Mala Ghedia, Tatea Reilly, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell, Stelios Yiakmis

Year: 2006

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Australia


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