Although the odor of buried sin and some vast, encroaching punishment hangs over most every frame of Jindabyne, this is hardly a religious film in the traditional manner. After a disturbing crime, church and an old family Christian tradition hold no succor. There seems to be only the wild vastness of Australia's New South Wales, a landscape more comfortable with the rawer, less enfeebled spirituality of the few, benighted aborigines still living in the area. Given the ardor with which some of the characters pursue a form of redemption, one can only hope that there's a god of sorts out there in the land's soaring endlessness paying attention -- and maybe even granting absolution.
Intelligently adapted by screenwriter Beatrix Christian from Raymond Carver's short story "So Much Water So Close to Home," Jindabyne is about the things people do to remember that they're alive, and the things they want to forget that make them feel dead. Set in the titular small village (a sign on the road identifies it as "a tidy town") Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne play Claire and Stewart Kane, a couple with troubles surrounded by friends and coworkers with plenty of their own. Everyone works the small-time kind of jobs you can find in a town the size of Jindabyne, Claire clerking at a drugstore and Stewart (a former auto racing star) running a gas station. There's darkness in the Kanes' past, like the year and a half when Claire lived elsewhere after the birth of their son Tom (played with heartbreaking sincerity by Sean Rees-Wemyss), never explained. A couple they're friends with has troubles, too: a dead daughter and now the unexpected stewardship of their goddaughter, Caylin-Calandria (Eva Lazzaro), a haunted and troublemaking 10-year-old who seems to have a death wish.
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