Set in the ’90s, the film follows a young man named Nitram (Caleb Landry Jones) who lives with his mother (Judy Davis) and father (Anthony LaPaglia). Nitram struggles to fit in and connect with others. At times, Nitram gets sad, but thanks to medication and check-ups with the local doctor, he can get by. His parents find it highly challenging to deal with him as both his attitude and mannerisms cause trouble within the community and their own home.
After Nitram gains a sudden desire to buy a surfboard, he decides to mow the yards around the local neighbourhood to earn cash. Soon he meets a woman named Helen (Essie Davis) who becomes something far more than he expected- a close friend. But sadly, when the friendship comes to a close, Nitram is lonely once again. But this time, he begins to grow a mighty rage as more and more challenges and struggles come his way, ultimately leading him down the dark path that changes Australia forever.
For those who are not aware, Nitram is an Australian film that focuses on the tragic Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania back in 1996. The film asks one question: how could this massacre ever occur?
To be open, Nitram is not an easy film to watch. It’s filled with many unsettling moments and tension that continues to build up as the film progresses. We go on the journey of Nitram, watching his every moment within his own family and how he interacts with others (including strangers) around him. It’s also ever so uncomfortable to those who know what’s coming as Nitram continues to go from one bad situation to the other on his horrific and tragic path. Nitram certainly feels real and raw.
Caleb Landry Jones delivers tremendous work on the big screen in a wonderful performance. He is highly believable in this role, and the actor has committed everything to deliver such impressive work. The character is unpredictable and unsettling for the vast majority, all thanks to the great work from Jones. Supporting roles here are also highly pleasing and fitting, especially from Judy Davis, who plays the mother. Davis delivers tremendous monologues which are powerful at key moments.
The film is always dramatic or tense, and the visuals match the general tone and setting. The audio score and solid sound effects help the unsettling retelling of this story. For the most part, the editing is great, but I can’t deny that some moments either felt somewhat disjointed and randomly thrown in as if they didn’t belong. This type of editing did throw me off multiple times. Not everyone will necessarily find this disruptive, and the opinions on this could easily differ. The runtime is noticeable due to the pacing, especially as it nears the conclusion.
Overall, Nitram isn’t an easy story to tell, and it’s also not an easy watch either. That being said, there are many positive elements within this Australian film. It’s gripping and unsettling, filled with tremendous performances, especially from Caleb Landry Jones. There is a powerful message behind the true story, and the portrayal of the topic of firearms made me respect all that is displayed here. Pacing, for the most part, is great. Still, I can’t deny that elements such as questionable editing and the film’s general runtime were distracting or noticeable to me.