Cannes Review: Nitram Admirably Examines the Factors That Led to a Tragedy

Cannes Review: Nitram Admirably Examines the Factors That Led to a Tragedy
The Port Arthur massacre, taking place April 28th, 1996 on the island state of Tasmania, is routinely commemorated as one of the darkest days in Australia’s post-colonial history. Perpetrator Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old man with severe learning disabilities, murdered 35 people and injured another 23 in a shooting spree across leisure areas in the town; he is currently incarcerated, serving 35 life sentences with no possibility of parole.

Approaching the 25th anniversary of the tragedy—and accompanied by a degree of public backlash in Australia—director Justin Kurzel has made Nitram, a fictionalized account of Bryant’s life before the murders and attempt to forensically investigate factors that fostered the atrocity. That it isn’t an exploitative embarrassment is a relief, but the film runs into some issues for seeking cast-iron certainties about something truly inexplicable. The four main performances—from Caleb Landry Jones as Nitram, Judy Davis and Anthony Lapaglia as the parents,
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