★★★★ Directed by: Jamie Murray Written by: Jamie Murray Starring: Googoorewon Knox, Judd English, Anthony Thomas Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
Brooding and mysterious, short film Nangana from filmmaker Jamie Murray has such a plentiful supply of suspense, intrigue, and classic storytelling that audiences will find themselves immersed in its narrative.
Two half brothers, Pup (Googoorewon Knox) and Kit (Judd English) form a formidable fox-hunting duo. The former being one of the best spotters in Australia and the latter being a terrific shot with a rifle, it is no surprise they are hired by an eccentric landowner called Walker (Anthony Thomas) to help clear his acres of foxes. However, after weeks of no scalps, the half brothers nervously attend a dinner hosted by their employer, where more than just their pathetic numbers is discussed.
Dark and moody throughout, Nangana maintains a consistent tone for the viewer which is essential to bury them into the plot and the revelations to come. At the meal, Walker plays the campfire storyteller brilliantly, reeling in the audience as much as Pup and Kit with his stories and Australian history. This engaging approach to the short is great, even if the scenes end up outstaying their welcome to a degree. The dialogue is well crafted with just the right amount of drama to arouse our curiosity without falling foul of the melodrama boundary.
The performances are excellent across the board. Knox and English establish a terrific chemistry and their uneasy relationship gets explored brilliantly whilst Thomas is a commanding on screen presence, penetrating the movie with his menacing demeanor and folklore. One of the most remarkable sequences is where English’s character, after sipping too much vino, locks horns with the tales he's being told and openly rejects the mystical qualities of an old bone. There was such a tension to this sequence and English maintains it brilliantly.
Nangana explores numerous themes and topics, in particular the dynamic of the half brother relationship. There are also notes of survivalism and the brutality that it can engender. What is wonderful is that Murray allows a lot of these ideas to percolate in the frame with the characters without focusing on any one specifically, instead the viewer is presented with a story that contains numerous meanings and a harrowing atmosphere.
Intelligently directed with a trio of great performances, Nagana serves up a seductive slice of mysterious drama in the remote and rural Australian landscape. Enter at your peril as you may have to question everything you think you know even about those closest to you.