"Jindabyne" is wonderfully acted by Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne, two first-rate performers working close to the bone and concerned foremost with making an audience understand their characters, as opposed to merely liking them.
Carver's story "So Much Water So Close to Home" took place in the Pacific Northwest. Screenwriter Beatrix Christian and director Ray Lawrence straighten out the story's chronology and relocate the tale to Australia. On a fly-fishing trip, Stewart (Byrne) and three friends, all from the town of Jindabyne, are confronted with a specter: the naked body of a murdered young aboriginal woman. Rather than report their finding to the police, they fish for a day or two and then return home as scheduled. Only then do they contact the authorities and relay the news to their families.
It is too late. The news media paints the men as callous, or sinister. The dead woman's family believes the corpse's spirit can never properly rest. Stewart's wife, played by Linney, sets out to make amends. Why did these men do what they did?
Carver was not a writer given to facile answers to such questions. This film respects the source material's oblique intentions, though in its depiction of shaky marriages and simmering regrets, "Jindabyne" carries the tang and tussle of real life under the magnifying glass. The sign outside Jindabyne welcomes visitors to "a tidy town," but there's a killer loose (the script makes a bit too much of him), and emotions churned up by the fly-fishing incident are anything but tidy.
It is a fine thing to watch an actor such as Byrne throw pretense and calculation to the wind and grow better with age. The same goes for Linney. Compared to Byrne, hers is a more brittle screen presence, with an ever-present, slightly sad sense of humor, and a voice that can leap from serene calm to knife-edge hysteria in a second. These two are very good together, and while not everything in "Jindabyne" works, especially in its final, redemptive third, the film and its faces stay with you.
Directed by Ray Lawrence; screenplay by Beatrix Christian; photographed by David Williamson; edited by Karl Sodersten; music by Paul Kelly and Dan Luscombe; production design by Margot Wilson; produced by Catherine Jarman. A Sony Pictures Classics release; opens Friday at AMC Pipers Alley in Chicago, Landmark's Renaissance in Highland Park and the CineArts 6 in Evanston. Running time: 2:03. MPAA rating: R (for disturbing images, language and some nudity).
Claire - Laura Linney
Stewart - Gabriel Byrne
Jude - Deborra-lee Furness
Carl - John Howard