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:: Lantana

Written by Andrew Bovell, based upon his stage ply, ‘Speaking In Tongues’, Lantana is the long awaited follow up for director Ray Lawrence, who made the much acclaimed ‘Bliss’ fifteen years ago. The lantana is a dense, spiky weed, which grows beautiful aromatic flowers and is the thematic symbol of the film that tells the tale of a missing woman and the lives her disappearance entangles. Amidst the troubled middle aged marriages on the rocks, beautiful moments will sometimes appear.

Anthony LaPaglia plays the detective in charge of the case, his own marriage grown stale and predictable. But the film does not become a mystery/thriller until over half way through. The real interest is the four marriages it slowly reveals in short, sharp scenes, unsaid words and hidden expressions. To reveal any more of the plot or the characters and their interactions, their overlaps and coincidences would be to ruin some of the joy of the film, the slowly untangling structure.

The performances, particularly from Anthony Lapaglia are all masterfully restrained and complicated. Every character is flawed. Every character is suffering. Perhaps the only odd note was the casting of Glenn Robbins, who is so prolific on television at the moment with his comic characters that it was hard not to watch him and expect a funny accent or sight gag at any moment. That’s not to denigrate his performance; it was simply the baggage that his very familiar face brings with it.

Beautifully shot by Mandy Walker (The Well), Lantana was filmed using only natural light, allowing the actors more freedom and creating a realistic tension, almost claustrophobia, as not everything is perfectly lit and visible. Lantana maintains tension through to the gut wrenching finale, the only slightly false note being the montage at the end, which felt like a studio’s addition, a mawkish wrap up of the characters moving on. It was unnecessary but did not wound too much a beautiful and refreshingly adult film.

Screening at the George Cinemas, Dendy Brighton, Rivoli Cinemas and Cinema Nova