Lantana (2001) movie poster

(2001) dir. Ray Lawrence
viewed: 07/14/02

The film Lantana was recommended to me by a few different people, which may have inadvertently raised my expectations above what they should have been. It’s a good film, though I would say it was a far cry from a great one.

The film is interested in the lives of its middle-aged protagonists, in the late afternoon of their lives. It focuses on marital trouble, trust, and infidelity. And a murder mystery. It’s quite like a soap opera, particularly in the way that the characters’ lives intersect and bump up against one another, though not so heavy-handed.

It’s set in Sydney, in its suburbs and probably outskirts, which makes for an interesting background for the events of the film. The Sydney of the film is not the postcard glimpses of the city with which one is familiar, but rather the more average suburban neighborhoods and homes that look very similar to various American counterparts. It is foreign but not is foreign-looking. It is interesting to glimpse a little more of the places that people actually live rather than the “sites” that all tourists know. At the same time, these places have a boring familiarity, recognizable and undistinguished.

Was the film-maker really as interested in the background as I was? Or was the narrative less interesting and was my mind wandering? The title refers to a shrub, native to the area, in which the body, central to the film’s mystery, is discovered. Maybe there is a hint of suggestion in that, but I am hard-pressed to support that theory. The characters of this film are similarly recognizable. This American/Australian blur must be purely my own, though. The film may well be commenting on the life of Australia’s middle-aged citizens, but other than the one American character, certainly is not about America in any way. Though interestingly, not much is made of Barbara Hershey’s being American in the film, which in some ways might support the absence of difference recognized there.

Again, I find myself out on some far off tangent that probably no one else who has watched this film has even begun to consider…in that there really isn’t anything to consider….maybe.

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