Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata
Based on Barry Crump's book 'Wild Pork and Watercress', Hunt for the Wilderpeople is yet another moving, unique film to come out of New Zealand, and another notch in the belt of success for director Taika Waititi, following cult hits 'What we do in the Shadows', and 'Boy.'
The film follows the story of Ricky Baker, an unstable and somewhat precocious young boy, in and out of foster care his whole life, who ends up finding a home with Bella (Te Wiata) and 'Uncle' Hector (Neill) on their farm out in the New Zealand bush. Although he threatens to run away, Ricky starts to develop a sense of belonging, which is further enhanced when he and Uncle Hector get stuck in the bush together trying to avoid the authorities that follow them. If they are to survive, the two of them must grow, and strike up an unlikely bond of friendship.
Julian Denison as Ricky Baker is the star of the movie, not only because he is the protagonist and a child actor, but because he is utterly fearless in delivering a warm, intelligent, and extremely funny performance. Taika should be commended for his excellent and deft direction, because while extremely funny, the story is full of very complex and nuanced emotions, and challenges our notion of taste, often pushing boundaries. To get such a young person to convey these complexities in a film is quite something.
My major criticism of the film is the lack of depth in some of the peripheral characters, in particular Rhys Darby. Darby (Flight of the Conchords, What we do in the Shadows, Yes Man) is one of the more funny and intelligent people I've had the pleasure of watching over the years, but unfortunately his turn as 'Psycho Sam' a conspiracy theorist gone bush to escape the government, falls a bit flat. There is a richness to a lot of the performances in the film, but while Darby was certainly zany, it felt forced and I didn't really believe the character needed to be there.
However, this is ultimately one of the more enjoyable experiences I've had at the cinema in recent times. Movies such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople do far more to connect us to the world around us, and the people within it, than any Hollywood blockbuster, or big film with a huge celebrity in it. This film has heart, is creative, has empathy, and is relevant. You can find friendship, and a purpose, in the most unlikely of places if you are open to change, and being connected in this way helps us to move on from whatever might have happened in our past to feel whole, dynamic, and loving in the present.
By Rod @ Lovesac