|In My Country
2004 - R - 103 Mins.
|Director: John Boorman
|Producer: Chris Auty
|Written By: Ann Peacock, Antjie Krog (novel)
|Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Juliette Binoche, Brendan Gleeson, Menzi Ngubane
|Review by: Joe Rickey
A fictional portrayal of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, 'In My Country' imposes two fictional characters (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche respectively) on the proceedings. He is a Washington Post reporter sent to cover the hearings despite personal belief that Americans really don't care about what happening across the world. She too is a reporter, a radio reporter for an Afrikaans station (she is Afrikaans as well). The film chronicles the hearings and tentative but at the same time passionate developing romance between the two leads. The resulting film is one of undeniably good intentions that nevertheless manage to become dramatically clumsy and inert when it isn't focusing on the hearings.
The film suffers from a script replete with contrivance one normally only expects in melodramatic domestic thrillers and horror films. The manner in which Ann Peacock's screenplay throws the two main characters together for almost every single scene despite the fact that the likelihood of such occurring in reality is slim to none has to be seen to be believed (or not since the film isn't all that entertaining). From a flat tire to random run-ins, the film makes it incessantly obvious that the two are going to eventually fall for one another in spite of their inherent differences of opinion on most everything.
Compounding the problem, once the two get together, the majority of their conversations quickly shrivel into nothing more than pointless bickering; pointless in that one can see a mile away that their respective minds will not ever be changed. Another issue that the film never can address is why we should care about two personalities that seem more interested in personal drama than the hearings they are supposed to be covering. The simple fact that the film focuses so much on the relationship between the two characters instead of the hearings is a travesty in itself since the few moments where the hearings are recreated are gut-wrenching and otherwise riveting unlike anything else the film can muster. Enough with showing the two slow dancing and get back to the important things at hand, one feels like screaming at the screen. This is a misstep that one would not expect from a veteran director like John Boorman, the man behind one of the greatest dramatic thrillers of the 1970's in 'Deliverance.'
Making matters worse is that leads Jackson and Binoche lack much in the way of chemistry. The come across as disliking one another rather than falling hopelessly in love. Both are such talented performers that the fact that the screenplay leaves them in the dust is a depressing reality, almost as depressing as the film itself as it takes an interesting premise and muddles things up with a needless romance.