Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
Directed by New Zealand director, Taika Waititi (What we Do In The Shadows, 2015), in-short the movie concerns the disappearance of a young teenager with his foster guardian for about 6 weeks in the New Zealand bush, with a national manhunt underway for them two heroes.
Our Young protagonist, Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison, Paper Planes, 2014)) is a street smart young lad full of attitude, though always strangely likeable. We never know why he has been taken from home, all we do know is that this city kid has been placed in the care of Bella (Rima Te Wiata, House Bound, 2014)) “call me aunty Bella” and her silent grumpy husband, Hector, (Sam Neill, Daybreakers, 2009). The social worker looking after Ricky is the officious job’s worth, Paula, (Rachel House, Whalerider, 2002).
Despite initial problems, such as Ricky deciding to run away on his first night, and only managing to get about 200 metres from the house, before falling asleep with exhaustion only to be found the next morning by Bella. In the days that follow, Ricky and Bella develop a relaxed relationship, with Ricky slowly settling in. Small gestures by Bella such as a hot-water bottle in the bed, of a small collection of books for Ricky read. Life starts to take on an ordinary pace. Hector is still a silently grumpy as usual. Indeed, the only time we see Hector show emotion is when Bella unexpectedly dies at home, Hector is distraught.
A man of few words, He and Ricky get through the funeral and begin to settle down at home, only to receive word that the authorities are going to collect Ricky in about a week. This is the key point in the film, upon which all else hinges. Ricky decides to run away, however he gets lost, Hector looking for him, finds him but quickly there-after, injures himself, resulting in them taking six weeks in the bush to recover. During this time, the social worker is convinced Ricky has been kidnapped by Hector and a full-scale manhunt is launched. Eventually Hector and Ricky discover this, and have to cope as best they can while trying to recover the situation. The interactions they have with the public range from co-operative to trying to turn them in. We follow them as Ricky tries his hand a hunting for the first time, or building a shelter, or sharing a camp with Hector. Together they try to survive, seeing off risks from civilians hunting them, dodging the police and keeping fed.
The only down side is the Characterisation of Paula’s social worker, as it was overly manic and more than necessary for the part, allied to this was the use of a “SWAT team looking for the couple of fugitives (Watching SWAT teams search through New Zealand bush wears off as a joke fairly quickly).
Sam Neill is perfect for the role, gruff and uninterested (or so it seems) at first, his character has a caring side which comes out as the film moves on, as do the secrets Hector carries with him as he goes through life. As with most of these movies, Hector not only teaches Ricky about life, but the reciprocal takes place also. Together they deal with the challenges their escapade causes, learning a bit more about each other, as they do.
I could go into detail, but that would just ruin the story, as with any chase they are eventually caught and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. This could have been a twee piece which would have had me pull my eyes out, but no, it is well crafted (apart from Paula, sorry!) and entertaining, young Dennison gives a first-class performance alongside one of New Zealand’s greatest actors, who as usual does not let the side down. This movie brings together a loud, self-confident street thug and a lonely grumpy old man missing his life partner and results in as assured young man, preparing to take his place in the world, alongside his friend and mentor, Hector.