By NR Staff • 

Reviews — January 4


“The Hunter” is an odd little film that slipped in under the radar early in 2012, languishing perhaps because its layering of genres made it difficult to market. However, it’s worth checking out if for no other reason than to watch one of Willem Dafoe’s most interesting portrayals.

Also, it plays out in the wilderness of southwestern Australia, a visual backdrop that’s probably new to many viewers.

Dafoe plays a world-weary (is there any other kind?) mercenary hired by a biotech firm to hunt down the possibly extinct Tasmanian tiger. Posing as a zoologist, Dafoe is accepted by the family boarding him, but otherwise reviled by the locals.
There’s a lot going on here. Dafoe’s employer wants the creature’s DNA, but why? What happened to the missing zoologist who was the last to hunt the animal? Does the species even exist anymore? (It’s thought to have gone extinct in the 20th century.) Dafoe is terrific as usual, and his considerable skill makes the film’s startling climax a powerful moment.

“The Hunter” (2011) Directed by Daniel Nettheim. Starring Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Frances O’Conner and Morgana Davies. Rated R for language, brief violence and some hunting-related gore. 102 minutes.

— David Bates



What a great book “Faithful Place” is. Tana French’s third novel is rich in family dynamics, detail and Dublin.
I’d recommend reading the other installments in the “Dublin Murder Squad” series, as well, but “Faithful Place” can certainly stand on its own.

The story begins with a flashback to a pivotal moment in the life of narrator Francis “Frank” Mackey. He sneaks out late at night to meet his girlfriend, with whom he’s planning to run away. He and Rosie have decided to escape the poverty and gossip of their street, Faithful Place, and build a life together in London. But Rosie never shows — and when he goes to look for her, he finds a note indicating she’s decided to leave on her own.

Twenty-two years later, Frank lives a settled, if not completely comfortable life. He’s an accomplished police detective — undercover investigations, rather than murder, and there’s some good discussion of the difference between the two.

He’s divorced with a great daughter. He still carries a torch for Rosie, but he’s completely comfortable with being estranged from Faithful Place and his dysfunctional family, which he hasn’t seen since the night he sneaked away.
And then a clue turns up that may lead to discovering Rosie’s whereabouts. It takes Frank back to Faithful Place and threatens to turn his world upside down.

French has created such a sense of place in this book. Readers experience Faithful Place not just as a street filled with houses, but as a web of interconnected lives. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and their backgrounds are interwoven, as well. Childhood grudges grow and fester into adult hatred. Gossip is like mother’s milk.
She also has a fine sense for describing family relationships, both good and bad. The scenes of Frank and his 9-year-old, whom he loves with wild abandon, are realistic, heart-warming and, at times, heart-breaking. So are the scenes of him with his siblings and parents — although the emotions are much more complex, and the ties bind so tightly, they often break the skin.

“Faithful Place” is filled with sadness, regrettable circumstances and enduring despair. But it also offers hope as it contrasts the past with the life Frank is making for himself and his child.

“Faithful Place,” Tana French, 2010, Viking Adult.

— Starla Pointer

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