A CRY IN THE DARK. 1988. DIRECTED BY FRED SCHEPISI. STARRING MERYL STREEP, SAM NEILL AND DEBRA LAWRENCE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’ve always loved this film, though there’s no doubting that the subject matter, based on a true story, is grim. Meryl Streep acts her stripy ‘Eighties sweatsocks off as Alice Lynne Chamberlain (known as Lindy), the Australian woman who hit the headlines in 1980 when she claimed her baby was carried off by a dingo while the family holidayed at Ayers Rock.
Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, two Seventh Day Adventists, were already parents to two boys, Aidan and Reagan, when Lindy gave birth to Baby Azaria. The little girl was only nine weeks old when the tragedy occurred. Lindy was eventually charged with her murder, even though the baby’s body was never found. Her bloodstained baby-clothes were found, though, and the forensic investigation that followed ended with Lindy being sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour for the child’s murder.
Michael Chamberlain, a pastor in their church, was charged as an accessory but was allowed to remain free to look after their two boys, who at the time were too young to understand the implications of their mother’s imprisonment. The couple protested their innonence throughout the trial and its aftermath.
Judging by Streep’s Oscar-nominated performance (she lost out to Jodie Foster in THE ACCUSED), Lindy Chamberlain appears to have been the kind of abrasive personality who rubs people up the wrong way and who doesn’t see why they should modify their tone or their words to make people like them more. In the film, Lindy seems to have become the most reviled woman in Australia because she refused, or was unable to, display her grief openly. She did not fit the media’s idea of how a genuinely grieving woman should behave.
The couple also seemed to have come under fire from bigots because of their religion. They were accused of murdering the child because her name, Azaria, apparently meant ‘sacrifice in the wilderness.’ I can’t tell you if it does or not, but it’s in the film, anyway.
The couple appear to have been treated badly by both the media and members of the public. Lindy was spat at and called horrible names and accused of everything from witchcraft to being an unfeeling, unnatural mother. She held up well under pressure, even though during her trial she was hugely pregnant with the couple’s second daughter, Kahlia. The way Streep plays her, she seems to have been a woman with real balls, if you’ll excuse my French for a moment.
Michael, on the other hand, became more and more depressed during the trial, throughout which, incidentally, the forensic investigation looks to have been bizarrely shambolic. The couple’s marriage suffered as a result of all the stress and strain. The family was broken up when Lindy went to prison. I won’t tell you what happened afterwards, just in case you want to watch the film for yourself. It’s a riveting watch, though, and one which lingers in the mind for a long time afterwards.
Both the leads act up a storm. I’ve never been a huge fan of Meryl Streep’s but there’s no denying that she’s fantastic in the lead role. Sam Neill I’ve always liked, on the other hand, and he does a terrific job here as the husband who’s bewildered by events and unsure why his God would allow such a thing to happen to good, God-fearing people.
There’s a whole host of familiar faces from Australian television in the cast and there’s even an appearance by Debra Lawrence as one of the witnesses from the campsite at Ayers Rock. Lawrence, of course, spent many years after A CRY IN THE DARK playing earth-mother Pippa Fletcher in Aussie soap opera HOME AND AWAY, in which she and her husband Tom were the show’s two most beloved characters. (Until Tom d-d-d-died, sniffle, sniffle…)
I love this film. There are some truly gorgeous shots of Ayers Rock in it that give me the shivers. It seems like such an ancient, mystical and downright haunting place. And if you’re looking for a well-acted, well-scripted movie based on true-life events, then this might just be the film for you.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY