Monday, May 28, 2007

Whale Driver

Tonight I saw a New Zealand movie called Whale Driver, mostly with New Zealnd actors and actresses, most of them little known in this part of the world. The story is by Niki Caro. The acting of everyone is quite moving--especially of the young 11-year-old girl, who is the heroine, and of the ones who act as her grandparents. The story is about a Maori leader who expects a male offspring for his first son so that the grandson may continue the tribe's leadership and traditions. Unfortunately, the son's wife dies while giving birth and what's more the child born is a female. The grandpa is quite disappointed and is not too nuanced about showing it. The movie centers around the little girl's relationship with the grandfather, who has a love-hate relationship with the girl. Although he seems to love her by showing some signs of affection, he is bitter that the girl has destroyed his dream and that she has brought bad luck on the tribe. Of course, the girl goes through the pains of realizing that she is unwanted without entirely giving up her hope of winning the grandfather. Of course, the climax is, Does she succeed in winning her grandpa back?

The story is quite moving in many parts, especially in the scene when the little girl delivers a speach at school as she sheds profuse tears. Unfortunately, the story has quite a bit of unbelievable or, shall we say, supernatural or reason-defying elements, which make it a bit of tear-jerking fantasy, not entirely credible. There is the Deus-ex-machina to redeem the situation even in hopeless cases. But for that, it's a moving story overall. I'm not all that a fan of fictions with such convenient supernatural interventions. Either a movie should go entirely into fantasy like Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings; or it must tackle raw reality as is--at least to a believalbe extant. Whereas stories like Whale Driver or Emily Rose, however, move between rational and irrational realms making them somewhat shallow or hollow.

The photography and music are great. Beautiful scenes of the sea and sky and the green pastures. Green and blue remain with you even after the movie. The young girl was apparently nominated for numerous awards, perhaps including Oscar, and surely she does a great job.

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