An Aboriginal police detective is caught in a web of lies and deception in this brooding thriller from acclaimed Australian director Ivan Sen. Sen – who in addition to directing also wrote, shot, edited, and scored Mystery Road – has crafted one of the most distinctive Australian films in recent memory.

Upon returning to his remote outback hometown, Jay Swan, played to square-jawed perfection by Aaron Pedersen, finds himself a man on the outside. He’s derided and dismissed by his white colleagues on the police force, as well as his Aboriginal community, which now views him with suspicion. When a young girl is found dead in a drainage ditch, Swan is assigned to the case, although it’s quickly apparent that no one expects him to solve anything. Nonetheless, Swan doggedly digs for answers, gradually uncovering the dark secrets of his dusty, sun-blanched town.

While the visual stylings of Sen’s film recall classic Westerns, complete with cowboy hats, rifles, and sweeping vistas at sunset, the tone is pure 1970s neo-noir, where lone men like Swan fight for answers in a morally ambiguous landscape and redemption carries a heavy price.

Philadelphia Film Festival

‘impressively crafted, immensely satisfying’