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Review: River of pain and regret runs through the powerful 'Jindabyne'

Published June 8, 2007 12:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jindabyne

* WHERE: Regency Trolley Square Cinemas.

* WHEN: Opens today.

* RATING: R for disturbing images, language and some nudity.

* RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes.

* BOTTOM LINE: A fateful decision has consequences on a marriage in this powerful drama.

The Australian-made drama "Jindabyne" asks, with laser-sharp intensity and heartbreaking acting, one of the hardest questions there is in the world: How well do you know your mate?

That's what Claire Kane (Laura Linney) has to ask after her husband, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne), comes home from a fishing trip. On that trip, she learns, Stewart and his buddies found a body floating in the river - and chose to keep on fishing, rather than head back home to call the cops.

The incident tears at the fabric of Jindabyne, the Australian resort town where the Kanes live. The murdered young woman (Tatea Reilly) was Aboriginal, and the decision not to bring her down from the river sparks accusations of racism. Meanwhile, Claire's hamfisted attempts to atone for Stewart's actions rile up the community, which treats the American Claire as an outsider, and reopen old wounds in her marriage - notably, her postpartum behavior seven years ago when their son Tom (Sean Rees-Wemyss) was born.

Director Ray Lawrence (who made the fascinating 2001 thriller "Lantana" with Anthony LaPaglia) and screenwriter Beatrix Christian adapt Raymond Carver's short story So Much Water So Close to Home (one of the tales told in Robert Altman's "Short Cuts") into a tense and spare examination of how these married people relate to each other after years of pain, mistrust and secrets have taken their toll. It's also about the fundamental differences in which these characters react in a crisis - whether they choose to hold onto each other or splinter apart.

Lawrence also works in elements of a riveting thriller, as the dead woman's killer (Chris Haywood) roams the town freely. Also, Lawrence and Christian take great care to depict and respect Aboriginal customs (the movie begins with a written warning to Aboriginal members that death is depicted onscreen).

The performances are raw and authentic. Byrne seethes with rage, as Stewart deals with the aftermath of a decision he can never take back. Linney combines maternal protectiveness with angry vulnerability, as Claire confronts not only Stewart's actions but long-simmering animosity toward his mother (Betty Lucas) and secrets she has kept from him. "Jindabyne" cuts deep and leaves a lasting mark.

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* SEAN P. MEANS can be reached at movies@sltrib.com or 801-257-8602. Send comments about this review to livingeditor@sltrib.com.