Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

You shouldn't be reading this if you haven't already seen it due to heavy spoilers, so if you haven't seen it then please go and watch it. In the dark. Alone. With headphones. Right before bed. That's your best chance to get the full effect.

This movie deals in two timeless fears: the inevitability of death and the invincible solitude of the human condition. It's a meditation on grief and alienation. And it nails it.

Poor Alice, alone in death as she was in life. Even at the end, her family were unable to look past a sex tape to see her. They believed she'd led them to it. They believed it was some critical clue to understanding her, and that by discovering it they had restored a severed intimacy with her. Whereas it could well have just been a sex tape. There's no indication she did lead them to it, as they convinced themselves. It was in fact the neighbour who led them to it, and it seems unlikely the neighbour was acting by her agency. Which makes it unlikely that the secrets on the tape were 'unfinished business'. Seeing its contents didn't reveal her to them. If anything it obscured her since they believed it was so important to her, and that by finding it they could release her.

And what terrible consequences for not understanding their daughter. They abandon her when she needs them most, when she's lost, afraid and alone. They've failed her finally and completely. Their ignorance proves more potent than their love and grief.

This is a powerful illustration of the limitations of intimacy. How great and imprecise are the distances between us. And that intimacy, such as it is, ends completely with death. I think this is why the unease of Lake Mungo lingers so long. The fears it summons are real fears that are absolutely warranted. We have no answer to them, except to abandon them as her family abandoned Alice. As we too abandon Alice.

This movie has stayed with me for years now and I don't doubt it will continue to stay with me. I think there's a tiny part of my brain that doesn't realise it's just a movie and has never quite gotten over my concern for Alice. Maybe that's why I recommend the movie every chance I get. I think I'm trying to raise awareness for a great movie, but actually I'm trying to alert people to the plight of a tragic, misunderstood girl in the hope that someone can help her.

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