November 11, 1988 (USA)
John Bryson (novel), Robert Caswell (screenplay)
Verity Lambert, Yoram Globus, Menahem Golan...
In 1980, the Chamberlains
(Meryl Streep and Sam Neill) and their children are on a camping holiday in the Outback. As Lindy returns to the tent one
night to check on baby Azaria, she sees a dingo - an Australian wild dog - with a bundle in its mouth running off as she
approaches. Her baby has disappeared. Although everyone joins forces in searching, the baby is never found. The police
notes some apparent inconsistencies in Lindy's story and she becomes a suspect in murdering her child. The national attention
for the case turns a simple investigation into a media circus and a witch hunt.
Cast & Characters
Meryl Streep (Lindy Chamberlain), Sam Neill (Michael Chamberlain), Bruce Myles (Barker), Nick Tate (Charlewood), Charles Tingwell (Justice Muirhead), Neil Fitzpatrick (Phillips), Maurie Fields (Barrett), Dorothy Alison (Avis Murchison), Sandy Gore (Joy Kuhl), Burt Cooper (Golligan), Matthew Barker (O'Loughlin), Dennis Miller (Sturgess), John Howard (Lyle Morris), Peter Hosking (Macknay), Kevin Miles (Professor Cameron), Bill McCluskey (Greg Lowe), Ian Gilmour (John Buckland), Mark Little (Constable Morris), Debra Lawrence (Sally Lowe), Brion James (Cliff Murchison)
No murder case in the Australian history has been as notorious as Lindy Chamberlain's. In 1980, the Chamberlains went on
a camping trip to Ayers Rock, when their infant daughter disappeared from the family tent. Media attention was drawn immediately
to the case because of the Chamberlain's statement that a dingo took baby Azaria. The nationwide condolences quickly shifted
to disbelief - because no previous Dingo attacks have been known and also because the Chamberlains were members of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church. Their story continued to dominate the headlines, and their public efforts to set rumors
straight only backfired. The finding of Azaria's jumpsuit some weeks later, folded and with signs of fingerprints, raised further
questions. A first inquiry, held in Alice Springs in December 1980, supported the Chamberlains' account of Azaria's
disappearance. The Supreme Court quashed the findings of the initial inquest and ordered a second inquest. By an indictment
presented to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in September 1982, Lindy Chamberlain was charged with the murder
of Azaria Chamberlain and Michael Chamberlain was charged with being an accessory after the fact. Both were both found guilty as charged.
In 1985, after the release of John Bryson's book "Evil Angels", British producer Verity Lambert secured the film rights to
bring Lindy Chamberlain's story to the screen. While every Australian knew the Chamberlain case, their story was rather
unknown in the wider world, so Lambert's attempt in getting an international star succeeded when Meryl Streep, her personal
first choice for the part, agreed to do the film after reading the script. Director Fred Schepisi was no stranger since he worked
with Meryl and Sam Neill on "Plenty" before. By the time production started, Lindy Chamberlain was still imprisoned.
There were enormous legal considerations over every line I said, because Lindy Chamberlain was pressing
the government to be exonerated. Along with all the other challenges of making a movie, to have lawyers sitting there...
There was no doubt in my mind that she was innocent. And they did exonerate her, after the film. But because of her
manner, she was condemned. She wasn't the weeping, screaming, bereaved mother - she was more like 'None'a your fucking
business how I feel!' There are people you just want to tell, 'You know, you'll get further in life if you just...' She
was vilified for the shape of her eyebrows, because they pointed down and she looked mad all the time. (Meryl Streep,
Entertainment Weekly, March 2000)
The case further evolved during the making of the film. New evidence emerged in 1986 when a remaining item of clothing
was found – which the police had maintained for years did not exist. Lindy was released from prison, and her life sentence
was remitted. The Chamberlains were acquitted by the Supreme Court in September 1988 and their convictions were overturned.
Just in time, "A Cry in the Dark" released theaters in Australia to critical success. The New York Times called her performance
"stunning... with the kind of virtuosity that seems to redefine the possibilities of screen acting." Streep won the AFI
Award, Australia's Oscar equivalent, she was awarded Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival in 1989, the New York Film
Critics Circle Award and received Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.
Simply Streep's Review
In "A Cry in the Dark", Meryl Streep delivers a tour-de-force performance and succeeds in giving Lindy Chamberlain a voice
for the Australian public and a face for the wider world. The film's advantage is the script's almost documentary style -
what you see is what happened. If you have a look at bits from the original case, the resemblance is eerie.
When she appears on the screen, she dominates the film with brilliance. Accounts and speeches have been taken from court papers word for word, so the film does not
leave room for interpretation. Also, director Schepisi doesn't exclude the moments in which the Chamberlains failed to do the right thing, such as the press interview in which Lindy explains how dingoes peel their victim's skins.
It gives you an idea why people started to question her testimonies and her character. And this is the film's challenge - you sense that Lindy's behavior, her firm belief in truth and her religion leads to wrongful
accusations and eventual imprisonment, as the film focuses as much on the public interest in the case and the media frenzy
as it accurately chronicles the case. At times you wonder why she doesn't act more like the public expects in order to get
ouf of this story safe - but then you realise that this isn't fiction. The acting by Streep and Sam Neill is outstanding.
Meryl Streep has the character fully emerged. There is never a moment when the actress shines through. This is, in my
opinion, her best performance.
Awards & Nominations for Meryl Streep
Cannes Film Festival as Best Actress
Australian Film Award as Best Actress
New York Film Critics Award as Best Actress
Academy Award as Best Actress
Golden Globe Award as Best Actress