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Review: Finding your way out of a maze requires patience

THE AUSTRALIAN movie Lantana is as mysterious as its title, and as dark and intimate as its poster, which portrays an embracing couple.
The film starts with the close-up of a dead female body hidden in a bush. It is the beginning of the movie's mysterious journey back in time, which will reveal the circumstances of the woman's disappearance and death.
Set in Sydney, the story revolves around Leon (Anthony LaPaglia), the policeman in charge of investigating the suspected murder. He is cheating on his wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong), who suspects him of doing so, but instead of confronting him, she seeks the help of her therapist, Valerie (Barbara Hershey).


LANTANA bushes hide secrets.
photo: Courtesy of Intersonic

Lantana

Running time: 121 min
Starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong
Directed by: Ray Lawrence
Rating: 7 out of 10

THE AUSTRALIAN movie Lantana is as mysterious as its title, and as dark and intimate as its poster, which portrays an embracing couple.

The film starts with the close-up of a dead female body hidden in a bush. It is the beginning of the movie's mysterious journey back in time, which will reveal the circumstances of the woman's disappearance and death.

Set in Sydney, the story revolves around Leon (Anthony LaPaglia), the policeman in charge of investigating the suspected murder. He is cheating on his wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong), who suspects him of doing so, but instead of confronting him, she seeks the help of her therapist, Valerie (Barbara Hershey).

Valerie is also carrying around a tragic story: Two years ago, her small daughter was murdered and she has still not got over the loss. Her mourning affects her work with patients, and also creeps into her relationship with her husband, John (Geoffrey Rush).

The movie is an intriguing psychological drama about love, infidelity and trust - or rather mistrust. And it is "about the mistakes we make, the consequences we suffer and the attempts we make to fix things up," as the headline of the film spells out. Sometimes the film gets very heavy, because besides the four main characters, there are two more couples whose lives change dramatically when they become part of the police inquiry. They end up questioning their partners' honesty and faithfulness.

Explaining the title of the film might shed some light on the meaning of the film's multifaceted story, which is interlaced with many intrigues. Lantana is a weed that forms dense and spiky undergrowth, sometimes cultivated for its colourful, aromatic flowers. The shrub serves as a metaphor for the hide-and-seek game between the police and all the suspects, and as a metaphor for the impenetrable and at times painful relationships between the characters.

This movie is one of the few contemporary Australian films that have made it to Slovak screens. The complex story is written by leading Australian playwright Andrew Bovell, based on his play Speaking in Tongues.

Most of the actors are Australian and most are unfamiliar faces, the exception being Geoffrey Rush, who in 1996 received the Oscar for best actor for his performance as the eccentric pianist David Helfgott in Scott Hicks's highly praised movie Shine. In Lantana, he proves his talent again. But it would be unfair to single out Rush, as the other actors deliver equally remarkable performances.

The first half of the movie is rather confusing, as it deals with the different roles the characters play in the crime and how their stories intersect. Nevertheless, Lantana is a brilliant psychological study, and given time you can see its delicate flowers blossoming amid the thick, thorny undergrowth.

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