“He was laughing at my pain…like it was the funniest thing in the world.”
Origin/Director: Australia/Justin Kurzel
Viewings Tally: Recommended on Letterboxd. This was my first viewing. Categorically, not a horror movie, but as a character study, this couldn’t be any more horrific.
Synopsis: Based on true events, “Nitram” lives with his parents in suburban Australia in the mid-90s. He lives a life of isolation and frustration at never fitting in. As his anger grows, he begins a slow descent into a nightmare that culminates in the most heinous of acts. [Letterboxd]
Reely Bernie’s Take:
Born into this. Evil begets evil. Bad seed. Blame the parents. Mental health ambiguities.
There isn’t a lot of context regarding the brooding behavior of our protagonist turned antagonist, and I suppose that makes the observant ordeal all the more daunting and perplexing.
As in Elephant (2003) and We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), the task of trying to explain or even validate our violent youth and the heinous crimes they commit is superfluous. It’s like trying to diagnose the scorpion that stings and kills the frog that generously transported him across the river.
It’s in Nitram’s nature, I guess. And, there’s no relief in that whatsoever.
Nitram (Martin Bryant) and the Port Arthur Massacre really happened in 1996, and Director Justin Kurzel’s interpretation gracefully fringes on art out of atrocity and relaying an urgent message to the world.
The characters of the Martin Bryant family are fleshed out in a grueling, incestuous isolation. Dad (a heartrending and fatter Anthony LaPaglia) is in absolute denial about his son’s increasingly violent tendencies. Mum (probably Judy Davis’s finest performance in years) is further off—white-knuckling a resentment for her situation that is not only beyond hope but at peace for the worst outcome.
The worst outcome does come true, and yet Kurzel wisely omits the violence in place of character interaction, behavior approached, and behavior ignored.
At times, the atmosphere and eccentric personalities echo a darker Jesus’s Son (1999) vibe. There are even hints of Grey Gardens (1975). But, at the core, we are dealing with a fill-in-the-blank man child who harbors no sympathy, no empathy, and no remorse behind his sticky, long hippy hair. Caleb Landry Jones’s performance is horrifyingly rabid.
It is the exposé of Dirty Harry’s (1971) Scorpio killer. No good will come out of it.
If anything, Kurzel provides us with yet another reminder about the easy access the world has to assault weapons, and with people like Nitram behind the trigger, no good will come out of that either.
The Shot that Won’t Let Go:
Final Score: 4 psychoanalyses out of 5
For rent on Amazon Prime.
Happy Reely Bernie Horror Fest,