You would be hard pressed to find a more emotionally disturbing film so far this year than the Australian feature Nitram, based on the real-life 1999 Port Arthur shooting massacre that changed gun laws in that country within 12 days. You would also be hard pressed to find a true-crime drama better acted, scripted, and directed, and one that avoids both glorifying a killer and sensationalizing real murders, than Nitram. Caleb Landry Jones (Get Out; X-Men: First Class) gives a superb performance as the titular character — the film avoids using the real killer’s name, so I will honor that spirit by avoiding it, too — a deeply disturbed young man who is at least partially aware of his mental and psychological problems, and of his alienation from others. Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia turn in excellent work as his troubled parents, as does Essie Davis as the eccentric heiress who befriends him. Director Justin Kurzel and screenwriter Shaun Grant, who have collaborated in those roles on The Snowtown Murders and The True History of the Kelly Gang, have crafted a chilling anti-gun film that has met with a great deal of controversy in Australia and in other countries where mass shootings have occurred. Nitram is never an easy watch, but it is a powerful, challenging, wonderfully acted, terrifically written, and masterfully helmed drama.
A Family Affair
★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Kyle Mangione-Smith
A family with obvious problems is settled in comfortably during a snowstorm, but a decidedly eerie stranger is about to change that. Father Henry (Toby Cleary) and mother Julia (Allura Duffy) have different ideas about their son George (Wes Cannon) having an imaginary friend, when a woman (Mary Hronicek) seeks shelter at their place. Henry insists on letting her in, despite Julia’s misgivings. Kyle Mangione-Smith’s horror short has a great-looking, grainy, old-school aesthetic, and a chilly atmosphere to match the weather outside the family’s abode. Creepy as all get-out with some truly unnerving reveals, A Family Affair is a fine slice of fear fare.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Nitram and A Family Affair screened as part of Boston Underground Film Festival, which took place March 23–27, 2022.
Nitram releases in theaters and on VOD everywhere you rent movies March 30th.