dir: Thomas M. Wright
This is not an easy review to write. It wasn’t an easy film to watch.
I have found with all the death and insanity of the last bunch of years that I really don’t have a lot of love for true crime stuff based on things that have actually happened. Same goes for war films. I find them very hard to watch at the moment.
Horror movies with underground monsters or kill crazy maniacs are fine, but “real” or true stuff is just too painful. This film, The Stranger, is very painful to watch.
It should be. I don’t know if it should have been made. I haven’t sorted through, in my head, the moral and ethical arguments about making a movie depicting the lengths the police went to in order to convict a man for the murder of a child. I don’t know if I should even mention the boy’s name, since the family not only had nothing to do with this production but actively spoke out against it.
Who owns the story? The parents? The boy, which ultimately means the parents? The cops? Does Australian society own the story? And by own I don’t mean who has the right to make “art” and profit from the story. I mean, whose story is it?
I don’t think anyone is comfortable saying that, despite being the main character here, and the subject of that most generic of titles, the man who killed that boy wouldn’t be considered to be the one who owns this story.
And yet it’s all about him, and not the boy.
He is depicted as he is depicted, and instead of being depicted as a monster, he is depicted as a revenant, as something or someone who’s barely there. He is a scarecrow, gaunt, with a scraggly beard. He is almost faded, and only tentatively interacts with the world around him. Other than smoking I have no idea what he even did before he was caught up in this incredible undercover operation.
This is not a deep character study. You will find nor see no reasons to sympathise with him.