Posted: 09/24/2001




by Paul Fischer

U.S. Release date: December 21st, Nationwide. This is one to watch for…

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At the center of the film’s complex narrative is police officer Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia), a man desperately afraid of his own mortality, married with two sons, who seeks something new in an affair with the desperately lonely Jane (Rachael Blake).

Leon’s wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) feels the dissatisfaction in Leon, and seeks assurance through a therapist, Valerie (Barbara Hershey), who is struggling with her own problems, such as the murder of her child and her marriage to the dour law professor John (Geoffrey Rush).

From here we delve deeper into the web of characters that includes Jane’s neighbors Nik (Vince Colosimo) and Paula (Daniela Farinacci), her estranged husband Pete (Glenn Robbins), another of Valerie’s patients Patrick (Peter Phelps) and Leon’s police partner Claudia (Leah Purcell).

This slew of characters, each with their own stories to tell come into sharper (and more successful) focus once one of them disappears, and Leon and Claudia become involved in the subsequent investigation.

Lantana is a powerful detailed study of betrayal, human frailty and the profound complexities of human relationships. A multi stranded series of seemingly disconnected narratives that become clarified as this assured film develops.

Part thriller but primarily a multi layered character study, Lantana is a perfectly realized study of our own humanity, one that strikes a chord in all of us. Ray Lawrence’s first film since Bliss, 16 years ago, Lantana is a sublime achievement, understated in its cinematic direction, a work in which the substance of character rises to the top.

The performances are faultless, with LaPaglia delivering his finest, most intricate and subtle work to date. It’s extraordinary to watch him as he digs beneath the surface. He is matched by the emotionally resonant work of Kerry Armstrong, the brilliantly understated performance of Rush, and the other fine performances by Lawrence’s remarkable cast.

Beautifully adapted by Andrew Bovell [from the novel Speaking in Tongues] and assuredly, honestly directed by Ray Lawrence, Lantana is a haunting, moving and unforgettable masterwork, one that combines both genre and a detailed sense of character, facets lacking from Hollywood cinema.

One can only hope that when this special film opens in the US in December, it will find an audience that will embrace its multifaceted tone.

Lantana opens nationwide on December 21.

Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.

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