Based on the short story “So Much Water So Close To Home” by Raymond Carver, the film is centered around the discovery of a dead girl’s body in a river. An annual fishing trip for Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) and three friends results in confusion and anger in the town of Jindabyne after the men neglect to inform police of their find, opting instead to finish their trip. As news of the men’s neglect leaks, the town is horrified to hear about their poor decisions. The person most affected by Stewart’s decision is his wife, Claire (Laura Linney), who struggles throughout the film to piece together her husband’s story.
The film starts slowly, with a creepy old man sitting in a creepy old truck on a mountain. It feels for a moment as though the moviegoer has been transported into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part Three, but thankfully this feeling soon passes. With the discovery of the body, the film transitions from horror film cliché to a heated debate concerning right and wrong in the wake of a tragedy. Though the film moves painfully slow at the beginning, this discovery acts as a starter’s pistol for the rest of the plot. The scene is emotional, to say the least, with Byrne finally showing his true ability as an actor. His reaction alone sets the mood for the rest of the movie.
From the very beginning there is mystery surrounding the central characters, namely Claire’s hidden past and her cryptic illness. Linney’s portrayal of the unstable woman is exactly what it should be: dramatic, broken and insecure. Her quest to find out the truth from her husband causes tensions to run high for the couple. Linney paints Claire as an unsound woman with trust issues and numerous questions about family loyalty.
While Jindabyne is an original story enhanced by compelling characters, the film has one major flaw: too many unnecessary facets. The film, which runs 123 minutes, includes numerous shots of the landscape of Jindabyne, located in New South Wales. Fine. However, when the same shot of rocks in a river is used more than three times with the same lighting and angle, it hurts the integrity of the entire film.
There is also the question of the peculiar, dark behavior of Caylin-Calandria, played by Eva Lazzaro. The strange young girl stages the “murder” of a class guinea pig and carries a dead bird with her. Then she all but disappears in the second half of the movie. The movie also makes too much of the killer, putting him in random locations with no real purpose.
Despite the various weaknesses, the film still manages to spark discussion and capture the audience’s attention. By the end of the film viewers will feel a sense of sympathy for and connection to the characters. Jindabyne makes it more than obvious that it is always best to alert police of any body you may happen upon. Even if the weather implores you to fish.