Directed by Ray Lawrence
Written by Beatrix Christian, based on the short story "So Much Water So Close to Home", by Raymond Carver
Laura Linney as Claire Kane
Gabriel Byrne as Stewart Kane
Chris Haywood as Gregory
Deborra-Lee Furness as Jude
John Howard as Carol
Leah Purcell as Carmel
Stelious Yiakmis as Rocco
Eva Lazzaro as Caylin-Calandria
Sean Rees-Wernyss as Tom
Alice Garner as Elissa
Simon Stone as Billy
Betty Lucas as Vanessa
123 Minutes(Rated R for disturbing images, language and some nudity. )
"Jindabyne" is a quiet masterpiece that gets you from the first frame and leads you on a two hour trance which ends with a bang. Well, more like a slap. Literally. This is based on the short story "So Much Water So Close to Home" by Raymond Carver, and if you think that the plot sounds familiar, its because it was one of the short stories featured in 'Short Cuts." Only here it is done in a much longer fashion, with much more intense characters and even well acted. I do love "Short Cuts" but it is clear that Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney act much better than the unknown actors in the parts in that previous film. One may not want to see "Jindabyne" because they have technically seen this story once before, but I can assure you that the story has much more depth than the thirty minute Altman installment in "Short Cuts," and certainly does have more twists than you would expect.
"Jindabyne" is the story of a family-Stewart, Claire, and their little son Tom. They live in the historic town of Jindabyne, where the folks seem to care the most about fishing over anything else. Stewart and a group of friends plan on going on a fishing trip in the next weekend. Claire has had enough of fish, and has bigger things to worry about-especially when her son and the little girl next door bring and knife and pills to school with the intention of slaying the class rabbit. But Stewart writes everything off and is excited for the holiday. Working at a gas station every day seems to take its toll. The four men go on the fishing trip, and right when they are about to begin Stewart discovers the dead body of a girl. He begins to freak out, and the four of them debate on what to do, until it is clear. Tie the girl up by the leg, attach it to the base of a tree, leave it in the river, fish for two days, and then on Sunday they could report it as they are leaving. Of course this does not sit well with the people of the town, who question the morality of Stewart and the men. How could they live with themselves to spend a few days fishing while there is a dead girl only a few feet away? The family of the dead girl also begin to be disturbed, and the entire town seems to lash out at the men. Claire begins to become disturbed as well, and as she would want to stand by her husband she cares more about the well being of the dead girl's family, and makes it her mission to make them as comfortable as possible, no matter the cost to her own family.
"Jindabyne" attempts to be a few things, always generating tension and always being engrossing. The film starts in "Zodiac" style, with a woman driving down the road being pursued by an old man in a truck. This is, of course, the dead girl from the lake, and while we don't see the murder, the man's presence throughout the film always makes tension. Director Ray Lawrence does every scene with precision and a very creepy style. The score adds to the disturbing feelings. Take one scene where Laura Linney's Clare is swimming the lake with her son. She has her son sit on the edge of the beach so that she could just swim out to the center of the lake quickly and then come back. When in the center of the lake she sees this man (who we know as the murderer) asking the kid a question, and she hurries back to the beach but he is gone by the time she gets there. Now this scene has easy tension-for the viewer we know what this man is capable of. But the music is haunting, and applies to the scene. It's quiet, but eerie, as is the whole film. The disturbing nature of the film also comes from the story, but at the same time we understand Stewart and the men's point. And then there are times when you wonder how they could have ever done such a thing.
This is not exactly an easy film to get through. After the screening, where there were only a small handful of people on a Sunday night, there wasn't much of general love for it. It is slow, and unfolds slowly. The actual discovery of the body happens about forty minutes into it, but it really engrosses you into the characters. Gabriel Byrne isn't one of my favorite actors, but he seriously surprised me with his work here. Laura Linney turns in yet another powerhouse performance, and while it may seem like Byrne is the main character she really is. This film is about how the town's reaction effects her, and not Stewart and the men. "Jindabyne" is a study of the effect of death on people, and silently floats to one of the year's best. This is a haunting little movie, expanding an interesting tale already laid out twelve years ago.