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Review: Kids and more missing in 'Strangerland'

Tom Long
The Detroit News

"Strangerland" does a great deal of writhing about before ending inconclusively. The writhing is messy and emotional, which makes sense. The question marks left dangling, though, undercut any real impact.

Catherine Parker (Nicole Kidman) and her pharmacist husband, Matthew (Joseph Fiennes), have just moved to a remote town in the Australian Outback, much to the dismay of their kids, teen vixen Lily (Maddison Brown) and her resentful younger brother, Tommy (Nicholas Hamilton).

Tommy's resentful because the family's move was precipitated by 15-year-old Lily's affair with one of her teachers. Early on, we realize that Lily, who is Lolita-sexy, has continued her carnal ways in their new town, partnering with pretty much anyone who's available. Tommy, meanwhile, has taken to midnight walks to ease his anxiety.

One night both kids sneak out of the house, Lily after Tommy. The next morning, Catherine awakes late and assumes the children have already gone to school, until she gets a call telling her neither child has been showing up for class. She races about trying to find them just as a huge dust storm hits town. When the air finally clears, both kids are missing.

A local police detective (Hugo Weaving) leads the search, uncovering Lily's dirty laundry along the way. Also uncovered is Catherine's tendency to try and bury harsh reality with physical pleasure — has she somehow passed along a vixen gene to her daughter? Her husband apparently thinks so, which does not a happy marriage make.

"Strangerland" plunges into darker and darker territory as the days go by and the kids aren't found, and it certainly provides Kidman with some meaty, twisted material. But the film abandons the viewer in the end, leaving the audience as lost as those kids.



Rated R for language, some sexuality and brief graphic nudity

Running time: 112 minutes