out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Starring: Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene|
Director: Niki Caro
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: June 2003
Genres: Drama, Foreign
|*Also starring: ||Vicky Haughton, Cliff Curtis, Grant Roa, Mana Taumaunu, Rachel House, Taungaroa Emile, Tammy Davis, Mabel Warekawa-Butt, Rawinia Clarke, Tahei Simpson||
Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4
If you enjoyed how John Sayles evoked the Irish essence in "The Secret
of Roan Inish," don't miss Niki Caro's contemporary fable set in New
Zealand's traditionally patrilineal Maori culture.
Paikea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), called Pai, is the 12 year-old granddaughter
of Koro (Rawiri Paratene), leader of the Whangara tribe, who resents
her very existence. Her stillborn fraternal twin was to have continued
Koro's bloodline which can be traced back to the first aboriginal
inhabitants - and legend has it that these ancestors were borne to
their island home on the back of a whale. Not only did Pai survive
the difficult birth that killed her mother and brother but her father
(Cliff Curtis) then deserted the family for a career as an artist
in Germany, returning to visit only occasionally. So the only nurturing
that Pai has received during her short lifetime is from her grandmother
Nanny Flowers (Vicky Haughton). Nevertheless, she is resourceful and
skilled in handling weapons, diving and singing tribal chants. Above
all, she is determined to take her rightful place within the tribe
- a phenomenon that occurs only after the sacred whales beach themselves
on the shore near their village until Pai comes to their rescue.
Adapting Witi Ihimaera's 1987 novel, screenwriter/director Niki Caro
and cinematographer Leon Narbey have created a haunting, dreamlike,
artistic gem, particularly when Pai sings an ancient tribal song to
a dark ocean. And beautiful Keisha Castle-Hughes is a spunky young
charmer with a gravity reminiscent of Anna Paquin in "The Piano."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Whale Rider" is a mysterious,
mythic 9. But - be warned - that, while the film is in English, some
of the thick accents are difficult to decipher.
Copyright © 2003 Susan Granger
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