After living in New Zealand for almost 2 years now, I am ashamed that I never watched nor reading a novel of "The Whale Rider", but that has changed. Have been close with the Maori culture for a while, I gained a knowledge about the tradition and the lives of New Zealanders. And it is a heartbreaking journey of a young heroine who lives in a modern world with an old rule.
Paikea (Keisha-Castle Hughes) is a girl who was born in a Maori tribe, and her family is a chief of the tribe. Her twin brother and her mother died, and she became the only last female heir which in the tribe is unheard of. Her grandfather, Koro (Rawiri Paratene) resent her so much because she is a girl. He is desperately looking for a new heir for the tribe and ignores her completely. She heard the legend of 'Whale Rider', a warrior destined to be a leader, and she determine to break the taboo and the gender rule of her tribe. Directed by Nikki Caro. Based on a novel by Witi Ihimaera.
Even in this modern world, there are still old living tradition and rules abound people which they cannot break. But is it still working? This movie is a very touching subject; not about the tradition but more of a girl who desperately needs love from her family. I thought Keisha-Castle Hughes, although she didn't have any acting experience really delivers a great performance. She gives a raw emotion towards the screen and it affects everyone surrounds her. The story is complicated and the strong emotions that are pervasive throughout the film only make it more so. I have rarely witnessed a scene that is more painful than the one in which Paikea, having been recognized for excellence in her school, is giving a speech she dedicated to her grandfather at a school recital, and, while staring at his empty chair, can barely speak because her pain and sorrow is so great.
The movie has a strong, straightforward plot that is told with warmth and restraint, and it draws out laughter, pity and sadness among them. Though it has a strongly spiritual theme, it feels grounded in reality. The story offers many interesting tidbits about Maori culture and is very engaging. Particularly noteworthy are the realistic performances. The only thing I don't like about this movie is that it preaches in the dangers of prejudice and how in a strange way people have to be open to change even to keep old customs alive. In reality, this rarely happen. I like the storyline, but the ending is so predictable, it gives away all the subtle lesson that the movie gives to the audience. Great acting, especially Keisha Castle-Hughes, a well made and impressive film, whose only disappointment lay in the chosen ending.
Due to my hectic schedule, I will not be able to review all new movies every week. I apologize. I will however review some older movies from DVDs from time to time. Thank you for understanding.
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