Jindabyne (2007)

Director:  Ray Lawrence
Cast:  Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne, John Howard
Plot:  Stewart Kane, an Irishman living in the Australian town of Jindabyne, is on a fishing trip in isolated hill country with three other men when they discover the body of a murdered girl in the river.

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Mystery
Awards:  -
Runtime:  123min
Rating:  NC16 for disturbing images, language and some nudity.

The sleepy town of Jindabyne lays peacefully in suburban Australia but is badly awoken by a murder incident that divides the townsmen.  With this framework, director Ray Lawrence is able to craft a unique motion picture that shows excellent insight and clear focus. 

Essentially a character piece, Jindabyne follows the trend of Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, portraying how lives are interrelated and affected in a local community, and the undesirable consequences that follow.

The central theme of Jindabyne is one of race.  When the body of a young black woman is discovered by a group of white men gone fishing, they decide to report the incident only days later after their fishing trip. This misjudgment escalates not only into a major racial issue, but also creates thorns in family relationships. 

The cast gives credible displays, especially Laura Linney, whose performance is both powerful and dynamic.  Lawrence's direction is astute, and this allows the film narrative to flow like a river going downstream.

The real plus point of Jindabyne is the cinematography work by rookie David Williamson.  His ability to capture the Australian wild and its gorgeous natural beauty is impressive.  The slight problem lies in the ending which is abrupt and leaves many questions unanswered.  Was there justice?  Was there redemption?  Somehow as the end credits roll, viewers may feel unsatisfied.

Jindabyne is high on drama but low on thrills.  There are homage scenes referenced from the unforgettable Jaws' opening sequence.  Sometimes, there's an eerie glow to the film atmosphere, but it dissipates quickly, leaving Jindabyne little room to build its capacity as a thriller. 

It's a substantial effort from the filmmakers, but the sum is never greater than the sum of its parts.  Jindabyne starts strongly; alas it goes out with a whimper.  It never really realized its immense cinematic potential.

GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)

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