Sunday, July 20, 2003

Whale Rider (IMDB) (Netflix)
An interesting pairing with Northfork; two very different takes on losing a way of life. Pai is the only child in the line of succession to a Maori chief, but is in the highly unfortunate position of being a girl in a tribal patriarchy, and the only survivor of a tragic birth that took both her twin brother and her mother. The chief, her grandfather, is a hardcase conservative consumed with keeping the old traditions and could not be more ambivalent about Pai, who's just as willful and stubborn as her grand-dad—she wants to be a leader, too, and that contentious relationship is the spine of the film.

This film has been a clear critical success and a crowd-pleaser; fellow viewers Tim and Jennifer (both professional storytellers, so they certainly know their narratives) loved it. While I ended up liking it, there was a long warm-up period—the story seems stuck within its coming-of-age and holding-onto-the-past themes, resulting in too many stock scenes, when it could have transcended those themes (see Northfork for an extreme example of the latter case). Keisha Castle-Hughes is a precocious talent with the presence of a forty-year-old, and Whale Rider is a timeless and noble story that finally succeeds—I just wish it had been less of a last-minute victory.

For those with less jaded hearts, and—honest—kids approaching adolescence.