Directed by Ray Lawrence, starring Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong, Rachael Blake, Vince Colosimo and Daniella Farinacci.

While he's been cast in plenty of Italian-American supporting roles stateside, 'Lantana's star Anthony LaPaglia is in fact from Sydney. And this Australian film, apart from being one of the most unusual offerings you'll see this year, just shows what a great leading man Hollywood keeps missing out on.

Here he plays Leon Zat, a detective going through the motions with wife Sonja (Armstrong) and considering an affair with one night stand Jane (Blake). Sonja knows that something is up and attends psychiatrist Valerie (Hershey), whose own marriage to academic John (Rush) has crumbled following the murder of their daughter. Then there's Jane's jobless neighbour Nik, (Colosimo), who's curious about the unmarked cop car outside her house - given that Jane's just split from her husband - but is told to keep quiet about it by wife Paula (Farinacci).

It may not sound like much of a plot, but Ray Lawrence manages to work in a mystery angle to his engrossing study of middle-aged loss and longing. Without giving too much away, when someone disappears, Leon is called in to investigate, and his pouring over the details of someone else's married life leads him to place a value on his own. It's slow paced but all the better for it, giving the viewer plenty of space to evaluate just what's going on in the imperfect hero's head as he crosses into the worlds of the other characters.

There isn't one poor line in 'Lantana' and, while it tackles the biggest of questions like surrendering yourself to another and how well they can know you afterwards, no scene is ever too weighty and no emotion is overdone. It may be LaPaglia's movie, as he alternates between numb and time bomb, but he's backed up by a great cast who all get a chance to carve out their own moments.

If it's missing something, it's that Lawrence should have given LaPaglia and Rush more scenes together, but perhaps that would disrupt the tempo and make 'Lantana' less than what it already is. It has a sensuality years away from the young faces and trainer-toned bodies we've come to expect and shows that the greatest challenge you could face in any day is squaring up to that person in the bathroom mirror.

Harry Guerin