Jindabyne is the first dramatic feature film I’ve seen in 2007 so far that has greatly impressed me.

My review will be up at Christianity Today when it opens wider than the current limited release. But for those of you who have a chance to see it, make sure you do: It’s riveting, complex, and deeply rewarding if you have the patience for it. I’ve been reading several reviews that get to the reasons for my enthusiasm. It’s not as satisfying as Ray Lawrence’s 2001 drama Lantana, but there is a great deal to consider and discuss here… not to mention Laura Linney’s finest dramatic performance.

I’m especially taken by Kristi Mitsuda‘s interpretation: “Aside from obvious intimations about the differences between men and women (feminine emphasis on emoting, masculine prizing of pragmatism) wafting about the story at large, the film goes provocatively further. Jindabyne suggests that such casually cruel neglect as that displayed by the otherwise solid-seeming mates arises from a culture wherein a man calling a woman a ‘bitch’ is acceptable.”

Kenneth Turan: “With the recovered body as the catalyst, what has been papered over explodes onto the surface with devastating results. Slowly, painfully, the different agendas of husbands and wives, men and women, white and Aboriginal communities vividly reveal themselves. It is here that Jindabyne‘s unhurried pacing and Lawrence’s singular technique really pay off. We live on the fault line along with these characters, and it is an experience that is not easy to shake off.”

Andrew O’Hehir says, “There are moments when the racial undercurrent of Jindabyne begins to gum up the narrative and overwhelm Lawrence’s subtle, compassionate and even spiritual treatment of these people and this place. But I wish one-tenth of the films I saw were made with this much craft and integrity, this much intuitive understanding of where to put the camera, how much of the story to explain in words (not much) and how much to trust his outstanding cast to carry the film with their voices, faces and bodies.”

And Ella Taylor writes, “Jindabyne moves slowly and deliberately, its dialogue as spare and lanky as Carver’s own pared-down prose. The austere beauty of the landscape, shot in natural light and heightened by a keening native score, offers both a lament for what’s been lost and a painfully halting hymn to the faint possibility of reconciliation and community.”

UPDATE: 5/4/07
Darrel Manson (Hollywood Jesus) says, “But the film really isn’t about things dying in the outside world. It leads us to consider the death that happens within us. Death of love. Death of dreams. Death of community. Death of trust. The specters of these deaths can indeed haunt us. We may be able to keep them hidden away for a while, but in time they will torment the lives in which they have not been released. Jindabyne is the scariest kind of ghost story—the kind that deals with the ghosts we all have to face.”