Lantana [2001]

It's always slightly shocking to see a movie in which the actors look and behave like real people rather than glamorous movie stars--and that's part of the power of Lantana. But its real strength lies in its carefully observed script and the rich, committed performances of its cast. Anthony LaPaglia stars as a cop with an unsteady marriage; when he begins to investigate the disappearance of a noted therapist (Barbara Hershey), he suspects that her marriage to an academic (Geoffrey Rush) was similarly troubled, and he pursues the case as if his own marriage could be redeemed through it. Every character in Lantana is fully developed, sometimes with astonishing conciseness; the coincidences that drive the plot seem as faultlessly organic as the ones that might happen in your own experiences. (Lantana, incidentally, is a kind of plant; no doubt its interlocking foliage mirrors the movie's story.) --Bret Fetzer

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