Lantana

Aussie Director Ray Lawrence returns to feature films after a 17-year absence (Bliss, 1985) with Lantana, a mystery drama, that alludes to the title's reference to the flowering tropical shrub that hides an undergrowth of thorny branches. In the opening scene, the camera zooms in o­n the tangled body of a woman, concealed by the dense bush. The narrative (adapted from Andrew Bovell's stage play, Speaking in Tongues) then follows the events leading up to her death. We're presented with the disparate lives of four different couples, entangled through emotional connections, while being part of a Sydney police investigation. The prime detective Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) is having an affair with his (and wife Sonja's) dance teacher Jane (Rachel Blake). Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) is seeing a psychiatrist, Valerie (Barbara Hershey) who suspects her husband John (Geoffrey Rush) of having an affair with o­ne of her gay patients. These characters, and Jane's neighbours, are all questioned by detective Zat, who is embroiled in a personal mid-life crisis. How they are all linked becomes clear, not through the police inquiry, but by revealing the veiled secrets of the couples' private lives. The film is reminiscent of Robert Altman's Short Cuts, and in the same vein, no easy solutions are provided till the finale. The cast is a fine ensemble, but Anthony LaPaglia is the standout here, as a man who has lost himself, simmering with rage and confusion, trying to find his way.

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