From across the Tasman comes one of the most "magestical" films of 2016. After successes such as "Boy" and "What We Do in the Shadows", director Taika Waititi returns to the big screen with his 4th feature film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Based on the novel "Wild Pork and Watercress" by Barry Crump of "Footrot Flats" fame, this story is about a 13-year-old boy named Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who is sent to live on a farm with Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her rugged bushman husband Hec (Sam Neill). On his first and only attempt to run away, Ricky with his chubby build makes it 200m up the hill away from the farm before passing out. Soon enough however, Ricky is won over by Bella and her motherly ways although Hec continues to remain reluctant over having a foster child.
Ricky's whole world changes when Bella suddenly passes away and the Child Welfare Department decide to take Ricky back. Not wanted by a grieving Hec and not wanting to go back to the city, Ricky takes off with his puppy Tupac (named after the famous 90s rapper) and they escape into the bush, only to be discovered by Hec a few weeks later. With both missing, authorities presume Hec has kidnapped Ricky and together they spark a 5-month manhunt.
Following their journey over this time, it would be easy to accuse Waititi of creating this film as a marketing ploy to sell New Zealand to the rest of the world. From the lush green bush land, remote hilly countryside, crystal clear lakes and rivers that seem to reach the sky, to the snow-capped mountains, you will be absolutely enamoured by the landscape on display in this film.
Along with the beautiful scenery, the film is also laced with plenty of humorous moments that will have you laughing in stiches. Even scenes that ought to be sombre by definition such as Bella's funeral, end up becoming comedic affairs thanks to the appearance of Waititi himself as a ranting priest. Another well-known actor who makes an appearance in this film, is beloved Rhys Darby as "Psycho Sam", who lives off the grid, convinced of the great evils of the New Zealand Government and the national rugby team.
Veteran actor Sam Neill plays a fantastic bushman, illiterate and "rough as guts". It was personally quite intriguing watching Neill's performance in this film after having been used to seeing him in so many films and shows from the UK and USA. Watching Hec's personal journey was incredibly touching also – from someone who had little time for Ricky, to eventually having his heart won over by the youngster.
And this young boy will also easily win your heart over. Julian Dennison truly is the star of this show and is perfectly able to blend the innocence of a child with the wisdom and sadness of someone who spent almost his entire life without a family. His ability to play such a dynamic character as Ricky with all his quirks is also very commendable – after all, Ricky is convinced he is a gangster but at the same time he loves reading and writing haikus, not the typical traits you'd expect from a "gangster".
If there is only one film you see in 2016, make it "Hunt for the Wilderpeople". Waititi has excelled in combining fantastic camera work, humour, great actors, music and a good story to create a film that will be pulling at your heart strings. I would easily rate this film a 5/5. And if you're not convinced, then check out the below trailer:
Hunt for the Wilderpeople will be in cinemas across Australia from May 26th 2016.