Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Categorisation: Crime drama
Availability: Currently in cinemas
Plot: Richard Connolly directed this Australian film based on Jane Harper’s best-selling novel of the same name. Aerial views of flat brown farmland sets the scene – there is not a blade of green grass as far as the eye can see. The Victorian state of Australia is experiencing drought and the place is tinder dry. There has been a murder on one of the farms and three people are dead. The film’s lead character Aaron Falk, an Australian federal police agent, returns to his home town to attend the funeral of his friend Luke, his wife, and his son. It’s a murder-suicide. The only one spared, their infant daughter, was found left crying in her cot. Luke’s parents are devastated by the loss, certain that Luke was not to blame for the murders. But the townspeople are convinced otherwise. Luke’s parents ask Aaron to look into it for them. He somewhat reluctantly agrees, and then the drama unfolds as he enquiries into the tragedy. There is also a second story, told through parallel flashbacks in the film – the suspicious death of one of Aaron’s friends twenty years earlier. At that time Aaron was suspected of being culpable and was driven out of town with his father. This brings a further complexity to the primary story and Aaron’s return to the town.
Cast: This is a stellar Australian cast, with Eric Bana playing the lead role brilliantly. He brings a remarkable emotional depth to the part of Aaron, constrained in the face of hostility, his strength of character carries the action along. He is seriously good. The supporting actors are also terrific, but of particular note is Sergeant Greg Raco played by Keir O’Donnell. There is a deeply insightful and disturbing scene when Greg shows Aaron the site of the crime and tells him how it was finding the bodies. Carefully we are drawn into the trauma of what it might be like to be a first responders to a violent death. The acting is superb and it is one of a number of examples of profound film making that takes this production to another level. Miranda Tapsell as Greg’s pregnant wife is terrific and brings welcome humour to the film. In fact, there are a number of great one-liners that balance the film’s sharp intensity.
Filming and setting: The film is shot in the Wimmera, flat planed and shimmering, it provides a perfect location for the parched fictional town of Kiewarra. At once arid and remote, it generates an atmosphere that will resonate with many Australian small towns, particularly during the drought of the mid 1990s and 2010. The environment is tough, but Connolly captures the beauty of the magnificent Australian landscape.
Personal Comments: Jane Harper’s book lends itself perfectly to film adaptation. Like Mark Brandi’s Wimmera, and Chris Hammer’s Scrublands it captures the austere visual beauty of the Australian terrain and the dangers that exist beyond city boundaries. These books make for great reading, and this film illustrates how important they are to Australian filmmaking. It’s Australian noir – not dark and shadowy, but glorious in its sunburnt colours and every bit as sinister.