The degrees of separation among the eight principal characters in Lantana usually boil down to one, though they are drawn from an economically and socially diverse cross section of Sydney, Australia. Films that begin with a shot of a corpse usually require a resourceful detective to figure out "whodunit," but in this case, the detective Leon Zat is a man cheating on his wife, drinking too hard, and all too easily suspicious of the dead person's spouse. But Lantana is really not a mystery, though its central riddle will keep most viewers guessing until the end. It uses a death among its principals to explore the bonds of marriage and friendship. As one of the males says, "Most men are hiding something," which may be a self-serving remark, but it's true of almost everyone here, male and female. The flip side of keeping secrets is imagining the worst and then actively thinking about it until it becomes your reality. It's no way to live, let alone keep a marriage thriving, and Lantana illustrates that point in absorbing fashion. Amazingly, its director, Ray Lawrence, has made only one other feature (Bliss, a 1985 satire) and is best known in Australia for his work directing commercials. On the basis of this film, he clearly understands how to tell a complicated story, thanks in part to writer Andrew Bovell's expansion of his stage play, Speaking in Tongues. The filmmakers deftly use Sydney, a city where development is sometimes cheek by jowl with the wild bush, as an important element.