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Lantana (2001)

Here is a film about marriage, and takes it seriously.  The tagline says “sometimes love is not enough,” and that could be taken the wrong way.  What it means, I think, is that sometimes the emotion of love isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.   So many people these days — at least in movies — break up, or get divorced, and their reasoning is “I’m not in love with you anymore,” as if it were possible (or even desirable) to feel the same way about a person for one’s entire life.  People change.  That’s not a bad thing.   The folks who made “Lantana” know that people who stay married see their relationship as something worth working on, fighting for, even as it watches the marriages of its characters fall apart.  So much of the cinematic world views marriage as a trap, a dead end, something to escape from.  It’s refreshing to see a movie that treats it differently.

It’s a film about the way spouses drift apart from each other, simply by failing — or choosing not — to communicate.  It’s about how communication becomes hard or burdensome, about how you lie to someone you love not out of malicious intent, but because you’re not sure you can explain to them what you’re feeling or why you’re making the choices you’re making, and you’re afraid to try.  Or because you don’t think they’ll believe you, and you’re not even sure you believe yourself.  Or because you just don’t want to worry or upset them with something that’s probably nothing.  Or how you keep having the same fight, and you just don’t want to do that anymore.  There are a ton of reasons and subtle variations on reasons.  None of them are good, but they all get you through the day.  Then eventually they all pile up until two people who once were one now feel like they live on different planets, and aren’t sure how they got there, or how to get back.

“Lantana” is also about an investigation into a violent death, but you’re likely going to be sorely disappointed if you pick up “Lantana” expecting your standard cop procedural or mystery thriller.   The incident doesn’t even take place until fully halfway through the film, and there’s no buildup to it, either – it just happens.  And while it drives the events of the second half of the film, it’s hardly the heart of “Lantana” — it’s just a thing that happens in order to show us the characters under different circumstances.

It’s not a hopeless or depressing movie; though there are some very somber moments and characters.  Ultimately I found it hopeful; several of the character make hard choices to trust, to choose their partner, and to quit drifting.

The direction here is slow and very observational.  No big flashes or attention grabbing flourishes.  A lot depends on the actors, and the acting is excellent.  It’s a fantastic movie, one I really enjoyed, and one that I thought about quite a bit in the days after I watched it.

Verdict: Recommended, especially if you’re married

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