(MA15+) Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Joseph Fiennes
A parents’ worst nightmare emerges with dreamy severity in this powerful, ambiguous Outback mystery. One morning, Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) discover their two children are missing. Having recently moved to a far-flung NSW town due to a lingering scandal, Catherine and Matthew are smashed by a painful earthquake of emotions, allegations and desperation. Hugo Weaving gets involved as local cop David, charged with tracking down teen Lily (Maddison Brown) and her younger brother Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton). As Strangerland‘s rating suggests, there are plenty of tough, challenging moments along the way, including explicit sexual content.
You might have expected Strangerland to be a crime thriller or horror freak-out. While it has elements of such films, it instead is eerily occupied by the ripple effects caused by disappearance. The scope of Strangerland is insightful, because it highlights how far-reaching the fall-out from tragedy can be. Tragedy doesn’t just strike one part of your life. It impacts all of it — often in uncontrollable, unpredictable ways. Plus, as demonstrated by Catherine and Matthew’s crumbling marriage, tragedy also can make worse the problems that you’d been previously trying to avoid.
Aided by atmospheric cinematography and credible, strong performances (especially Kidman as disintegrating Catherine), Strangerland‘s portrait of what happens when kids disappear pulls you in. But many of the reasons that make it engaging, steadily become a quiet source of frustration. So many issues, torments and red herrings are stirred up in Strangerland, it can be difficult to know what we are meant to latch on to. Similar to how Catherine reacts to the heart-wrenching situation she’s trapped within, our response can be to also feel adrift. Longing for deeper investigation of some things is undermined by focus being spread across so much. The second half unravels handsomely, under the weight of the gripping but competing after-shocks.
Gliding to a chilling finale that lands somewhere between appropriate and unsatisfying, this case of missing kids will definitely disturb you. While the sex-life and graphic writings of precocious Lily are quite shocking, more memorable is the unexpected warning Strangerland sounds about relationships. Before their children go missing, Matthew and Catherine had let their dysfunctional marriage and family life go on and on and on. When tragedy strikes, their bond already was in tatters. This intensifies, because grief is only being fuelled by blame, anger and resentment.
The way they disintegrate into hostility, judgment and confusion should stir real-life couples to prioritise their own foundation — before the tough times occur. Because those in relationships surely do not want to make a tragic situation worse. Wouldn’t they want to draw together in solidarity and concern, rather than tear each other further apart?
In stark contrast to what we witness in Strangerland, God’s Word encourages people to not delay in striving to improve their relationships. Amazing sections of it, such as Ephesians 4:17-5:5, helpfully suggest such smart principles as not putting off until tomorrow what you can do today. Instead, by being intentional about constantly drawing together in the unity of Christian love (Eph 4:1-6), our relationships can be firmly grounded. Secure in support and care.
Sharing in the deep bond of divine love that Jesus allows his followers to enjoy means many things. Among them, is being able to know that such relationships also enjoy something of the unshakable might and trustworthy power of the love of God himself. Wow. While that’s mind-blowing, it also should be a great comfort. Something to depend upon — even if tragedy strikes. And strikes hard.