Anyone who has ever read a Raymond Carver short story will remember the vague sense of tortured melancholy it inflicts upon the reader. I haven’t read “So Much Water So Close to Home”, the Carver story this film is based on, but the submerged war between the sexes he so adroitly unearthed and confronted directly is here.
The story though, has been transplanted to the Jindabyne region of Australia and carries with it a racialist subtext involving the Aborigines, the subtler shades of which I suspect may be lost on American audiences inclined to substitute African-Americans or indigenous peoples in their place.
Thoroughly deliberate in its exposition, the film unfolds at a pace as expansive as the landscape it depicts. Four men on a fishing trip stumble across a dead aboriginal woman in the water who has clearly been murdered by a violent hand. Initially horrified, they then reason that they can’t do much for her and decide to stay in the remote location and fish. Once back among their wives, girlfriends and families, the details emerge and they become pariahs.
The story focuses particularly on one couple, Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) and Claire (Laura Linney) as the incident challenges the uneasy truce between them and reveals the darker recesses of their relationship. Claire attempts to do right by the dead girl’s family with a bull-headed idealism that seems fitting for the only American character in a foreign country. Her checkered redemption, like all the revelations in this film, occur with long wide spaces in between, like the electrical towers dotting the barren landscape, connected by an invisible persistent drone.
Opens April 27 at Landmark Sunshine