- Movie Rating -

Nitram (2022)

| April 1, 2022

Justin Kurzel’s Nitram is one of the most unpleasant movies that I have seen in a good while, equal parts creepy, grungy and unsettling and yet . . , I am recommending it.  It is apparently all-too-easy to fashion together a movie about a disturbed youth who frustrates his parents, school officials, law enforcement, innocent bystanders and society in general but it takes a certain level of skill to make it work.

What you sense in this movie is a story that feels real, so the fact that it’s based on a true story doesn’t actually matter.  It works just as well as fiction.  The forward news about Nitram is that it is apparently based on a true event: the 1996 massacre at Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia.  Again, this information does not change my assessment of the film because I could have just as easily have watched a fictional narrative that would have been just as strong.

At any rate, the film goes deeper into the psychology of a killer than just the anatomy of events – it is a dissection of who he is before that crime.  Caleb Landry Jones is very good as Nitram, an intellectually disturbed young man who lives with his parents at Port Arthur and is, to say the least, problematic.  Having given up any prospect of life as a means to support himself, he seems to wander through life, sometimes as an irritant to his parents, neighbors and everyone else and sometimes just as a young man who seems to be taking up space.  Breaking the monotony of simply existing, he irritates those around him (particularly the neighbors) by setting off fireworks in the middle of the day and later attempting to sell them to school children.  His social skills are almost 

Nitram (Martin spelled backwards) has, we gather, has always been a problem.  We can see it in his eyes and most abundantly in the eyes of his frustrated parents.  His heartbroken father (Anthony LaPaglia) is trying to pull the family out of a financial stupor by buying a bed and breakfast.  His mother (Judy Davis) has retreated from her son, weary at his shenanigans, she chain-smokes and seems to wonder where it all went wrong.  Her face is a stone mask – she’s seen it all before.  This is a kid that will never change, and worse, she’ll never get rid of.

But things look promising when he befriends Helen (Essie Davis) a lost soul who takes him in.  Once, she was an actress but the cruel maze of life has left her in a state of melancholy brought on by long periods of crushing loneliness.  Perhaps for her own reasons, she buys Nitram and car despite the fact that he does not have a license and clearly has no business behind the wheel.  This lands as a shock to his parents.  Why is she doing this?  We’ve met her and we have a cursory reason to suspect why.

Well, spoiler alert, the fate of this woman and also of his father’s business venture do not go well and it only goes to further push Nitram into a mental corner.  Nothing good happens.  We know where the movie is going based on the true facts but it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.  To my own surprise, I felt a measure of pity for Nitram despite his destructive nature.  I felt for his long-suffering parents, and I felt for Helen.  This is a disturbed young man who needs help very badly and doesn’t get it.  His story is unsettling because he isn’t getting the help that he needs, not for the crime that he commits.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Drama