Tangle at a Wide Angle

After much help from Google, I find out that lantana is a prevalent weed in Australia. Its intertwined thorny vines are the film’s inspired metaphor for its storytelling structure. The movie features four couples which are somehow entangled with each other’s lives. The movie’s first half is pretty much a set-up as it weaves through the fragile relationships of these couples. All of them are dealing with their own varying marital difficulties. They slowly drift away from their partners and crash into other people. External bonds are formed through one-night stands, therapy sessions, neighborly chats, and coincidental meetings.

I thought the movie was merely playing “connect the characters,” but a stunning act in the middle brings them all together in a thrilling manner. One person disappears. One person is a cop assigned to the case. One person is a suspect. One person is a witness and so on. The plot development is so absorbing that I didn’t realize I was talking to the TV. Many exclamations of “uh-oh” and “ah” were escaping from my mouth. Twists of fate materialize as some secrets are spilled, while some are not. I can’t help but be totally floored. But the movie doesn’t hit its biggest impact with its mystery or the striking conclusion. It’s all about these characters’ actions, triggered by this one event. After years of being sheltered in their own fantasy, some characters finally emerge to seek out the truth, perhaps to put their doubts to rest. At the end, the film startled me to doubt own loyalty and at the same time, examine the sanity of my doubts.

The cast is incredibly solid, with memorable performances from Anthony LaPaglia and Kerry Armstrong. The film is directed delicately by Ray Lawrence. It’s written intricately by Andrew Bovell. I wish I was more grown-up when I watched this, because this is really a mature movie. But I connected with it nonetheless and grew to admire its ability to flesh out as many characters as it can. From numb husbands to suspicious wives, lonely divorcees to the children caught in the middle, “Lantana” is one fine ensemble drama to watch.

Grade: A

Anthony LaPaglia, Kerry Armstrong, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Peter Phelps, Vince Colosimo, Daniella Farinacci, Nicholas Cooper, Marc Dwyer, and Rachael Blake
Based on the play “Speaking in Tongues” by
Andrew Bovell
Screenplay by
Andrew Bovell
Directed by
Ray Lawrence
Rated R for language and sexuality