A review of “In My Country” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *

Rating: R for violence and language.

Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.  In English and Afrikaans with English subtitles.

 

 

Director John Boorman whitewashes a crucial period in South African’s modern history with misguided romance and heavy-handed platitudes.

South African circa 1996 is a time of social and political healing from the wounds of Apartheid. Up front and center are the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, wherein perpetrators of the country’s most brutal racial crimes must confront their victims and pray for amnesty on their day of reckoning.

Two cogs in a sticky wheel lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Anna Malan (Juliette Binoche) is an idealistic Afrikaans poet whose patriotic enthusiasm for the democratic process inspires her to cover the hearings for her country’s state radio. Langston Whitfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a skeptical Washington Post reporter with a chip the size of Texas on his shoulder. 

Politics, journalistic celebrity, racial sensibility; you name it and the pair are at odds about it.  Until the truth and justice behind the hearing’s poignant hardship stories bond them both morally and physically, creating an interracial hornet’s nest.

In the name of healing the wounds of apartheid the cardboard lovers spout preachy dialogue (“My skin will never forget you”) and languish in a hopelessly torpid narrative that’s embarrassingly clichéd.  Questions of identity and responsibility are trotted out to give heft to the ungainly agenda.

A fiendish Brendan Gleeson chews up the scenery as the quintessential Bad Guy – a South African cop who lives to torture and brutalize his black countrymen.  Ugly secrets unfold in staccato succession with the intent to incite but inspiring only groans.