Under a blazing hot, relentless Australian sun, Federal Police agent “Aaron Falk” (Eric Bana) returns to his home town in rural Australia, to attend a funeral for his deceased childhood friend “Luke” (Martin Dingle Wall).
Falk is pulled home via a message written by Luke’s father, reminding him that Luke and Aaron lied twenty years ago. About what and why, forms the basis of this murder/thriller mystery.
This is a difficult homecoming in numerous ways, Falk remains under suspicion following a childhood event where a young girl died. There are also three coffins at the funeral, Luke’s wife and young son are among the dead, with all clues pointing to a murder suicide at Luke’s hand.
Town folk either steer clear of Falk or express open hostility. The usual slew of vengeful locals, red necks in large pick up trucks, the families of victims and various locals providing plausible red herrings, for those who like to guess “whodunit”. Added to the mix is Aaron’s previous childhood friend and old flame Gretchen (Genevieve O’Reilly), who may or may not know more than she lets on.
The heat emanating from the parched earth is an integral part of the story, with the sweltering oppressive atmosphere providing a suitable backdrop for a town gripped by secrets, with many not keen to unearth the truth.
Falk is encouraged to stay and joins forces with local Police sergeant “Raco” (Keir O’Donnell), who while well meaning, lacks the experience to oversee the triple homicide. At the prompting of Luke’s parents, Falk decides to assist Raco. Bearing in mind Falk presumably has no power or jurisdiction to challenge or question suspects, this feels somewhat implausible.
The story is interspersed with flashbacks, showing a young Aaron, Luke, Gretchen and ill fated Ellie. All characters portrayed by younger actors, providing further viewer misdirection, making it difficult to determine what really happened that day, twenty years ago.
The film is based on the book by Jane Harper and does an admirable job of sketching small town Australia, resplendent in it’s isolation, potential for lawlessness, deeply guarded secrets, community spirit and yet desperation during an interminable drought.
Bana brings Hollywood movie star looks to the film but dials back on quirks or charisma, playing a stereotypical Australian male, where “you ok?” is an over the top display of emotion. Feelings are to be repressed, not placed on public display.
There are a few inconsistencies which expose screenplay plot holes as to who did what, why and realistically how, surely even an inexperienced policeman would notice these tell tales.
The acting is fine and despite a great reveal, which most will not see coming, this remains just short of being the movie it might have been. Maybe more engagement and demonstrable charm from the unusually taciturn Bana may have helped.
Enjoyable murder mystery in a relatively low budget Australian movie where the desolate barren scenery, is one of the main characters.
Not the best of the genre but provides a highly enjoyable glimpse of a small Australian town and the dark secrets hiding in plain sight.