Kim Farrant’s Strangerland is deeply, uncomfortably Australian. In many ways, it goes right to the heart of the country as a family infiltrate a place that is unfamiliar and even hostile to their arrival. A family, all of whom hold secrets and potentially criminal pasts. They could have been dressed up in Colonial costumes and set 150 years ago without much of a narrative alteration, which is probably much the point of Farrant’s debut feature. How our convict pasts have manifested as a society that turns on its own as much as the other.
Strangerland has a fairly simple premise, but one that allows for some fairly wide-ranging readings. After having left their last post due to an ambiguously alluded to crime, Matthew (Joseph Fiennes) and Catherine Parker (Nicole Kidman) find themselves in the remote outback town of Nathgari. He’s a pharmacist and she’s a housewife, neither of whom are able to handle their 15-year-old daughter, Lily (Maddison Brown). When Lily and young son Tommy vanish in the middle of the night, the town deals them with suspicion while Catherine becomes more and more emotionally unhinged at the thought their children may have deliberately abandoned her.