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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Gloom and Sadness Everywhere
by Betty Jo Tucker

I always look forward to watching mysteries or thrillers. So, of course, my expectations were high for Strangerland, an Australian film about a crisis involving two missing youngsters. After all, the movie boasts a strong cast, including Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving. Plus, I heard that director Kim Farrant was nominated for the 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic category and that the movie earned a Best Film nomination at the Sydney Film Festival. All good stuff -- right? Read on.

Desert beckons in dark of night.

Two children walk into the site.

They disappear. Where could they be?

Can parents stand such misery?

Some rumors fly fast through the air

like the dust storm that brings a scare.

Are mom and dad the ones to blame?

Or could it be a deadly game?

Strangerland tries to do too much.

So with the plot it loses touch.

We get annoyed with heavy gloom

and with an end that hints of doom.

For me, Strangerland includes the least satisfying ending since No Country for Old Men. Iím still angry about both of them. But letís talk a bit about the positives. P. J. Dillonís  (TVís Vikings, Ripper Street and Game of Thrones) cinematography makes us feel like we really are newcomers to the small desert town of Nathgari, Australia. One realistic dust storm scene took my breath away! And I find no fault with the actors. Kidman (Australia) delves deep into the character of a wife and mother going through a meltdown over her missing children and her emotionally distant husband; Fiennes (Enemy at the Gates) holds his own as the worried father who canít accept his daughterís promiscuity; Weaving (V is for Vendetta) nails the role of the local detective on the case; and the two youngsters playing the young brother (Nicholas Hamilton) and his wayward teen-age sister (Madison Brown) are real finds. Supporting cast member Meyne Wyatt (The Sapphires) also excels as one of the suspects.                        

Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong with the storytelling here. Thereís way too much sturm und drang in practically every scene. Also, I have to admit being turned off by the negative image of teen-age girls, which gets overdone in films and TV today. Regarding plot points, many elements are introduced and not followed up on as needed. Strangerland appears guilty on all three counts. And, finally, thereís that disappointing ending.      

     The opposite of the happy ending is not the sad ending; the sad ending is sometimes the happy ending. The opposite of the happy ending is actually the UNSATISFYING ending. ---  author Orson Scott Card.

(Released by Alchemy and rated ďRĒ for language, some sexuality and brief graphic nudity.)

For more information about Strangerland, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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