Nitram review – a harrowing portrait of Australia’s deadliest mass shooter | Drama movies
Aa crucial moment in this quietly heartbreaking drama from Justin Kurzel, director of Snowtown, Macbeth and The True Story of the Kelly Gang, a young man walks into an armory with a bag of money and comes out with an arsenal of firearms. What’s remarkable is how horribly factual the scene is, with its flippant talk about the tossing of rounds of ammunition and “pretty” carry bags. Yes, there’s a bit of a sticky moment where the youngster reveals he doesn’t have a license, but gets bypassed when he agrees not to register his purchases. So, the deal is done; hands are shaken, money is exchanged (“a pleasure, thank you for your business”), and deadly weapons are sent into a world where no one is safe.
During most of its operating time, Nitram is not about gun control – or at least it isn’t appear be. Instead, it presents an intimate and thoughtful account of the late coming-of-age struggles of a misfit loner, superbly played by Caleb Landry Jones, who won Best Actor accolades at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. price, where Kurzel’s film swept the board. Mockingly nicknamed Nitram (his name reversed), this prickly and emotionally unstable character lives with his mother and father in suburban Australia in the mid-1990s. His father (played in an almost unrecognizable downtrodden form by Anthony LaPaglia) loves his son , but struggles to contain his reckless impulses, such as giving lit fireworks to children at the local school. Meanwhile, his mother (Judy Davis, wearing her ragged nerves outside) exudes stony exasperation and resigned defeat at her brood’s wayward behavior.
When Nitram awkwardly embarks on a lawn mowing business, he is greeted by hastily closed doors, until he meets Helen (Essie Davis). A wealthy and eccentric woman with a menagerie of dogs and cats, Helen buys the overgrown boy clothes and a car and lets him move in – taking a break from his parents. For a moment, this odd couple seems to be enjoying a mismatch Harold and Maud–style relationship. But the honeymoon period cannot last, and Nitram’s destructive impulses soon leave him alone in the house, with his thoughts and his money. Meanwhile, his father’s dream of creating a rural bed and breakfast suffers a setback that plunges him into depression, much to his son’s horror.
Screenwriter Shaun Grant, who previously collaborated with Kurzel on snow town and True story of the Kelly Gang, started working on the screenplay Nitram, which he calls an “anti-gun movie”, after traveling to the United States in 2018 following two mass shootings and watching a former athlete on TV vigorously defend his right to own a shotgun. semi-automatic flush. Recalling the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, which still hung like a dark cloud over his home country (it was the worst mass shooting in Australian history, killing 35 and injuring 23 others), Grant decided to write a screenplay around this subject. raw wound. This, he hoped, would cause “audiences, especially pro-guns, to sit down with a character who clearly shouldn’t have access to guns and watch as they have such easy access to them.”
For the best or for the worst, Nitram, which caused great consternation in Tasmania for daring – or perhaps presuming – to dramatize such horrific recent history, does just that. It places its audience in the deeply uncomfortable position of watching a young man’s mental health issues spiral inexorably from a personal issue to a national disaster by the insane addition of easily accessible firearms. Impressively, the film avoids portraying its central character – a remorseful outsider who replaces empathy with aggression – as monstrous or sympathetic. He may have endured teasing bullying as a child, but when the surfers he pathetically hopes to have fun with send chills down his spine, you can see why.
It is as it should be for a film which ultimately is not on its titular character (or unnamed actual inspiration), whose crimes are kept off-screen. We never see the devastation it causes, and we don’t need it. All the horror the film needs to tell its story is in this armory.