Strangerland Movie Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Released by Alchemy
Directed by Kim Farrant
Written by Michael Kinions and Fiona Seres
2015, 112 minutes, Rated R
Theatrical and VOD released on July 10th, 2015 | Blu-ray and DVD released on August 10th, 2015
Nicole Kidman as Catherine Parker
Joseph Fiennes as Matthew Parker
Hugo Weaving as Det. Rae
Nicholas Hamilton as Tommy
Strangerland opens with the Parker family settling into their new home in Nathgari, a town far away from their previous life in Canberra, and fifteen-year-old Lily (Maddison Brown) and her little brother Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton) are having a hard time adjusting. A thick tension fills their household, compounded by a palpable anger from their pharmacist father, Matthew (Joseph Fiennes), and a desperate need to pretend all is well emanating from their mother (Nicole Kidman). The Parkers are thrown into turmoil when one night, Tommy and Lily sneak out for a late night walk, but do not return home.
Strangerland performs the exceptional feat of allowing hope and despair to hang in near-perfect balance for the duration of this movie. Like Catherine and Matthew, the viewer wonders if we will ever see these children again. Joseph Fiennes is fierce and frightening in his portrayal of a father betrayed by his daughter and a wife leaving him to dispense discipline on his own. Lily’s prior troubles in Canberra was the catalyst for the family’s exile to the sticks, and his unresolved rage at her leaves him guilt-ridden and wondering if he was the reason she left. He deftly juggles the pain and resentment of Matthew as a father and husband. Nicole Kidman’s character is quite different; she values her relationship with Lily over Lily’s chaos, but her willingness to forgive her transgression could have loosened the maternal reigns enough for Lily to slip away. Where Strangerland fails to excel is in its sense of honesty when the children’s disappearance drags on and the parents have nowhere to go. Fiennes doesn’t push too hard; he keeps attempting the brave face, but Kidman’s Catherine is sent on a downward spiral. She flounders with her fears and guilt and grief until it lands her in the middle of the desert, screaming for her lost children. It is very dramatic, but it feels dishonest when the rest of the movie keeps the anguish in tight, close focus.
I was intrigued by the idea of the Stranger in Strangerland. While Lily and Tom’s fate is unknown, their parents scrounge around the small town and reach out to their old friends and contacts to find out who they could have run to or where they might be hanging out. As they dig, they begin to learn more about their children than they knew living under the same roof. As the days pass without their family, they learn more about themselves. The Stranger that took away their security is as real as the Strangers that lived beside them.
We may never truly know anyone. Not even after they’re gone.