Nitram review: Justin Kurzels disturbing and wonderfully acted drama

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In the film, we only hear the oddball referred to by his childhood nickname, Nitram. But Australian audiences will recognise the story of Martin Bryant, the lone gunman responsible for killing 35 people and wounding a further 23 during the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

Nitram unfolds in the mid-1990s in Tasmania where the long-haired loner (Landry Jones) lives with his weak father (Anthony LaPaglia) and icy mother (Judy Davis).

His sudden outbursts of temper lead to his doctor prescribing antidepressants but suggestions of seeking therapy are ignored.

A close friendship with a reclusive heiress (The Babadook’s Essie Davis) offers some stability but two tragedies cast him adrift.

Kurzel, who directed the equally disturbing true-crime drama Snowtown, doesn’t offer a simple explanation for the tragedy that we know is about to unfold.

A chilling childhood anecdote from Nitram’s mother suggests he could be a psychopath but a lack of support from social services and lax gun laws are clearly significant factors.

Thankfully, most of the violence takes place off screen. The most disturbing element is a final caption revealing that gun ownership in Australia is now at a record high.

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