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:: Jindabyne

Based on Raymond Carver’s beautiful short story, So Much Water, So Close to Home, and from the same director as one of Australia’s most celebrated films, Lantana, this film has much to live up to. Fortunately Jindabyne is an exquisite piece of drama that exceeds even the highest expectations. The story unfolds in Jindabyne amid the scenic Snowy Mountains. This curious town was flooded in the 1960s with the damming of the snowy river and then entirely rebuilt on higher ground. Much of the old town remains in tact, like a ghost town, beneath the water.

Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) sets off deep into the bush with three mates for their annual fishing trip, leaving their wives and children behind in town. On reaching the river, they find the body of a murdered young woman floating in the shallows. Instead of hiking back to raise the alarm, the men continue their fishing and stay for two more nights. Back in Jindabyne, the body is identified as a local aboriginal girl and the town is outraged that the men did not report it straight away. Stewart’s wife, Claire, can’t understand how her husband could be so callous toward the dead girl and begins to doubt their marriage. In her distress she tries to reach out to the people in town and the dead girl’s family.

This story is about the small issues between husbands, wives and friends as much as it is about the big issues of gender equality, race and social responsibility. As much as the town punishes Stewart and his friends, Ray Lawrence gives us subtle reminders that the real killer is still out there. This film is quietly chilling with that fear grows out of acknowledging the innocence and humanity of the victim, rather than Hollywood gore.

Jindabyne is beautifully filmed, showcasing a magnificent part of Australia and, although it runs for two hours, it doesn’t feel drawn out or overly indulgent. If anything, this film leaves its audience wanting more and thinking about it for days.