The film derives its name from an Australian bush, which has attractive flowers and leaves, but very thorny stems. Director Ray Lawrence has chosen this title, as a metaphor of the human relations that he has portrayed in the film, which show different emotions both from within and the outside.
The film derives its name from an Australian bush, which has attractive flowers and leaves, but very thorny stems. Director Ray Lawrence has chosen this title, as a metaphor of the human relations that he has portrayed in the film, which show different emotions both from within and the outside. The film focuses on a middle-aged group of people who are facing upheavals in their marriage and how they deal with the situations in their own individual ways. The Australian melodrama begins with a scene where we see the dead body of an unidentified woman lying among the thorny bushes of the Lantana plant. The scene gives us an understanding that we are going to watch a thriller, but what conspires to our surprise is something totally different.
Although the murder is the base of the movie structure, what we experience here is the intense human relationships and what transpires between the characters that are emotionally disturbed by their unfulfilling marriage to their partners, which now in their middle-aged lives, has created vast distances between them. So when Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia), a crabby, ill-tempered Sydney police detective is handed over the investigation of the sudden disappearance of Dr. Valerie Somers (Barbara Hershey) who is also his wife’s consultant, the domestic drama spills out, with revelations, betrayal, family discord and a psychological drama, all of which we get to see in the length of the film.
The onset of middle age has turned Leon Zat into a grumpy and irritable person who carries around with him an air of self-pity and remorse and his relationship with his wife Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) has soured to the point of separation. He finds himself involved in a one-night stand with Jane (Rachael Blake), whose equally troubled marriage has led to an embittered separation from husband Pete (Glenn Robbins). The emotional turmoil within draws them to each other and they end up in bed. Sonja, the suspicious wife has the feeling that her husband is cheating on her and she decides to consult a psychologist, Dr. Valerie Somers, so that she can vent out her feelings that are trapped in her mind, as she cannot speak them out at home.
Dr. Somers on her part is recovering from the tragic murder of her 11-year old daughter that had happened two years ago, after which Valerie’s sexless life with husband John (Geoffrey Rush) has not been very happy either. She fears that one of her patients, Patrick (Peter Phelps) an antagonistic young gay man is having an affair with her husband and the thought of being left alone in middle age leaves her feeling lonely and distressed. So what we see here is a range of varied emotions and marital problems, most of which we experience in our everyday life and see that sometimes even the most intimate alliances can end up differently as time flies by.
As for the murdered woman that we see in the beginning, the suspense of her identity is maintained till the very end although there are link-ups to the murder throughout the film. Based on Andrew Bovell’s play “Speaking in Tongues”, Lantana is a beautiful film that has been brilliantly directed by Lawrence, who apart from his effort has used some great talented actors to give the movie the depth and the subtlety that it needs. The actors on their part have given performances to remember and considering any one greater than the other would not be a very fair judgment. Lantana has received several awards both nationally and internationally and is a film really worth recommending.