Lantana (2001) – Wizards from ‘Aus’ Part 1


Whether or not this wizard from Oz intentionally takes its lead from other interweaving character studies, I don’t quite know.

Coming after similar ensemble story movies, Andrew Bovell’s 1996 play on which it’s based came some time before, so this is certainly no Aussie replica.

The meeting of multiple stories has been done, often very well, closest cousins being Short Cuts and Magnolia.

Lantana, the flowering plant does look quite like Magnolia at least, but where Paul Thomas Anderson dynamically spun the connected threads in more visually mesmerising fashion, Lantana, the film, is dis-similar in many ways.

Lantana mesmerises equally though, plotting its convoluted path in such understated and believable ways that brings about a connection to everyone without flair, conjecture or ambiguity. With Bovell adapting his own story for the screen and direction from Ray Lawrence, authentic storytelling and character acting is allowed to blossom.

It studies the complexities of trust, love and loss in front of a developing backdrop of mystery at the disappearance of a local woman, immediately ushered in on an opening scene that pans across a forlorn dead body, through a host of flowering Lantanas. Whose body it is remains unrevealed until mid-way when the tightly woven threads of infidelity and guilt loosen far reaching consequences.

The murder mystery of who and why seems secondary to the significance of who has done what to who and how in a tale of loyalty and the complex affairs of the heart when love isn’t enough anymore for four couples at different times and places in there initially divergent lives.

A series of everyday compelling events bring them all together towards tragic consequences for some, a repaying of trust for others and redemption and forgiveness for others.

How all this gathers is near plotting and scripting perfection; a tight, methodical script fully aware of its intentions grasps the attention throughout.

Superbly acted throughout, the central hub for all the related stories is investigating Detective Leon Zat (Anthony LaPaglia) whose affair with fellow Latin dance classmate Jane (Rachel Blake) makes the first link when wife, Sonja (Kerry Armstrong) is also in the same class.

LaPaglia is superb, his performance as much as a surprise in the fact he is actually Australian (I never knew); His portrayal of the fallible, bludgeoning detective displays incompetence and misjudgement when disloyalty brings unnecessary risks. Support from Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey is exceptional whose damaging grief is truly tragic.

It may lack the gloss and recognition of its American cousins, but Lantana is yet another superb entry from Australian cinema that displays all the trademarks of high crafted subtlety and realism.

The end doesn’t quite deliver the mystery it builds to, it’s something as completely unfortunate and simplistic as you could expect. Truth being, it doesn’t need a payoff or revelatory crescendo, Lantana’s most dramatic threads have already been weaved in and out.

Undoubtedly, a great and powerful offering from Oz.

new 4 star

Part Two coming soon – Animal Kingdom

16 responses to “Lantana (2001) – Wizards from ‘Aus’ Part 1

  1. I was wondering what you meant by Wizard of Oz, ahah, very clever Kevin 🙂 Someone did a guest post for me about this one and I was intrigued then. Even more so now!

    • Ruth, it is superb, honestly check it out. Watched it on netflix was just sat there with other ‘critically acclaimed dramas’. I gave it a try, a gem. My next Wizard from Oz is Animal Kingdom – ever better!

  2. First and foremost, great review. Very good read.

    Just like the other comments, I was confused by the Wizards From Oz thing as well. You might consider doing two things: First, change the title of these articles to [Film Name] (release year) – Wizards From Aus Part [#]. Second, you’d probably want to create a tag for Wizards From (Oz / Aus) and use that for each of the films in the series, that way your website creates an interface with all of them on there (which it sorta has with

    Great review, though!

  3. Really good review. This is a film that more people should see. I saw it years ago, loved but then forgot about it… I’m going to make space to re-watch it soon.

    For what it’s worth, I didn’t find the Oz/Aus thing confusing at all!

    • I know but gotta look after the audience and I always like any advice. Thanks for the praise, I don’t remember it all from the time I am only 12 years late. Never to late for a great film. Look out for my next review. Thanks again!

  4. I thought I might have seen this but after reading your review, I don’t think I have. I was getting it mixed up with another Aussie film called Jindabyne or something like that. I should check this out though. Sounds good.

  5. This is a belting film, agree with your review wholeheartedly. Excellent cast and good performances all round too. Geoffrey Rush is always worth watching but LaPaglia is superb, the real heart of the film.

    • Thanks, it’s amazing isn’t it and one of my most recent movie watching surprises. I should have watched it years ago! quite right, Rush is always good and LaPaglia was very good and I never knew he was Aussie!?

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