Aa pivotal moment in this quietly harrowing drama from Justin Kurzel, director of snowy city, Macbeth Y The true story of the Kelly gang, a young man walks into a gun store with a bag of money and walks out with an arsenal of firearms. What’s remarkable is how horrifyingly real the scene is, with his casual chatter about throwing rounds of ammo and “nice” carry bags. Yes, there is a bit of a sticky moment when the young man reveals that he doesn’t have a license, but that is sidestepped when he agrees not to record his purchases. So the deal is done; they shake hands, money is exchanged (“a pleasure, thank you for your business”), and deadly weapons are dispatched into a world where no one is safe.
During most of its runtime, Nitram It’s not about gun control, or at least not. Appear be be. Instead, it presents a carefully intimate account of a lonely misfit’s late-coming-of-age struggles, superbly portrayed by Caleb Landry-Joneswho won awards for best actor at the 2021 Cannes film festival and at the Australian Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, where Kurzel’s film swept the board. Derisively nicknamed Nitram (his name backwards), this spiky, emotionally unstable figure lives with his mother and father in suburban Australia in the mid-1990s. His father (played almost unrecognizable by Anthony LaPaglia) loves his son, but struggles to contain his reckless impulses, such as giving fireworks to the children at the local school. Meanwhile, her mother (Judy Davis, jagged nerves on the outside) exudes stony exasperation and resigned defeat at her offspring’s misguided behavior.
When Nitram clumsily embarks on a lawn-mowing business, the doors are hurriedly shut – until he meets Helen (Essie Davis). Helen, an eccentric wealthy woman with a collection of cats and dogs, buys clothes and a car for the boy and allows him to move in, breaking up with her parents. For a while, this odd couple seems to be enjoying a harold and maude–style relationship. But the honeymoon period cannot last, and Nitram’s destructive impulses soon leave him alone in the house with her thoughts and her money. Meanwhile, his father’s dreams of establishing a rural bed and breakfast suffer a setback that sends him spiraling into depression, much to the horror of his son.
Screenwriter Shaun Grant, who previously collaborated with Kurzel on snowy city Y The true story of the Kelly gang, started working on the script Nitram, which he calls “an anti-gun movie”, after being in the US in 2018 following two mass shootings and seeing a former athlete on TV vigorously defending his right to own a semi-automatic hunting rifle. remembering the 1996 Port Arthur massacreStill hanging like a dark cloud over his home country (it was the worst mass shooting in Australian history, leaving 35 dead and 23 injured), Grant decided to write a screenplay around that still-open wound. He hoped that he would make “the audience, especially those in favor of guns, sit down with a character who clearly shouldn’t have access to firearms and watch how access to them is so easily granted.”
For better or worse, Nitramwho woke up great consternation in Tasmania for daring, or perhaps presumed, to dramatize such a horrific recent history, he does exactly that. He puts his audience in the deeply uncomfortable position of watching a young man’s mental health problems inexorably accelerate from a personal problem to a national catastrophe by the insane addition of easily accessible weapons. Surprisingly, the film avoids portraying its central character, a stranger to remorse who replaces empathy with aggression, as monstrous or compassionate. He may have been bullied and teased as a kid, but when the surfers he pathetically hopes to ingratiate himself with turn their backs on him, we understand why.
This is how it should be for a movie that is ultimately not on its main character (or his unnamed real-life inspiration), whose crimes are kept off-screen. We never see the devastation it causes, nor do we need to. All the horror the film needs to tell its story is in that armory.