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Film / Lantana

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Lantana is an Australian mystery drama film released in 2001, directed by Ray Lawrence and written by Andrew Bovell, adapted from his play Speaking in Tongues. As a Hyperlink Story, it stars an ensemble cast, headlined by Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and Kerry Armstrong.

Lantana is set in suburban Sydney and focuses on the complex relationships between the characters in the film. The central event of the film is the disappearance and death of a woman whose body is shown at the start of the film, but whose identity is not revealed until later. The film's name derives from the plant Lantana, a weed prevalent in suburban Sydney.

Lantana provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Russell Dykstra's character, credited as "Mystery Man", fills the role of Neil Toohey from the play in one scene (when he runs into Leon while jogging), though he doesn't share Neil's connection with Sarah/Patrick.
    • Nick Robson in the play becomes Nik D'Amato. By extension, his wife Paula's surname also becomes D'Amato.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In Speaking in Tongues, Nick is described as abusive to his wife Paula when he's drunk. We see none of this from Nik in the film.
  • Condescending Compassion: A source of tension between Paula and Jane, the former objecting to the latter's offers of financial help, and getting furious after Jane tidies their house for her after Nik is arrested.
  • Contrived Coincidence: To the point of One Degree of Separation: Leon is assigned to investigate Valerie's disappearance and death. Leon's wife Sonja is Valerie's patient. Leon is having an affair with Jane. Jane lives next door to Nik, who becomes the prime suspect in Valerie's death. There are numerous other less significant meetings, including Jane's estranged husband Pete running into Valerie and Leon the night she disappeared. This is actually toned down a little from the play, which also had Pete and Sonja almost having an affair the same night as Leon and Jane, as well as John having an affair with one of Valerie's patients.
  • Decomposite Character: In Speaking in Tongues, Valerie's patient Sarah Phelan is having an affair with her husband John. In the film, the character is split between Patrick Phelan, a patient of Valerie who admits to her that he's having an affair with an unnamed married man, Valerie's secretary Sarah, and the unnamed, unseen woman who John did have an affair with.
  • Demoted to Extra: The unnamed jogger and Patrick, compared to their play counterparts Neil and Sarah.
  • Exiled to the Couch: Leon, after he admits his affair to Sonja
  • Gender Flip: Sarah Phelan from Speaking in Tongues becomes Patrick Phelan in the film.
  • Happily Married: Nik and Paula D'Amato are the closest of the couples we see.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: John and Valerie. Leon and Sonja, though it may not be beyond repair by the end.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a shot of Valerie's dead body tangled in the weeds under a lantana plant.
  • Insistent Terminology: During his second tryst with Jane, Leon insists that this is not an affair: "It's a one-night-stand, except it's happened twice."
  • Losing a Shoe in the Struggle: When Valerie ran from Nik's car, she left a shoe behind. When Nik returns home, he throws the shoe in the bush across the road from his house, not realising he's been seen by Jane, who reports it to the police.
  • Maybe Ever After: The film ends on an ambiguous note for Leon and Sonja's marriage.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Richard Morecroft reports Valerie's disappearance on The ABC News.
  • Not His Sled: Those familiar with Speaking in Tongues may be surprised that Patrick is not having an affair with John.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Valerie and John's daughter, Eleanor was murdered 18 months before the film, which is the source of their current marital difficulties and the paranoia about Nik that led Valerie to her own death.
  • Parents as People: Sonja is a downplayed case of Hands-Off Parenting, allowing her teenage son to use marijuana as long as he was doing it at home where they could control it. When Leon furiously asks why she didn't tell him, she points out that he hasn't been around much lately.
  • Police Brutality: Leon is shown to have a problem with this when he takes part in a drug bust.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When Nik picked up Valerie and agreed to give her a lift home, he didn't tell her that he was taking her down a back road shortcut. She panicked, jumped from the car and ran into the bush eventually falling down a ravine.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The film lacks the play's constant overlapping dialogue, Minimalist Cast and use of Anachronic Order (aside from Nik's flashback of what happened to Valerie, which is revealed at the end of the play's second act).
  • Spared by the Adaptation: While Speaking in Tongues hints that Neil is Driven to Suicide, his unnamed counterpart gets one of the happier endings, last seen on a date with Claudia.
  • That Was the Last Entry: Valerie left a number of messages on John's answering machine the night she disappeared, after her car broke down not far from a phone booth. The last of these stated that she could see a car coming and was going to try to hitch a lift home.