Healing @ Montreal World Film Festival

healing2Sometimes when you go to a film with very little knowledge about it other than a small synopsis something unexpected can happen.  That is the magic of film.  It really doesn’t matter if there is no big name actor starring in it or an Oscar winning director at the helm or a huge budget behind it.  All a good film needs is a good story and the right people to tell it.


Australian director Craig Monahan and actor Hugo Weaving have formed quite a filmmaking partnership over the past sixteen years.  They have made three films together – Healing, The Interview and Peaches.  Based on this film they have obviously become comfortable with each other and in the process given film fans solid films to enjoy.


Monahan not only directed Healing but he is co-writer with Alison Nisselle.  He shows an ability on the page and behind the camera in creating an emotional story that is never overly cheesy or melodramatic.  At times he lays it on rather thick, but I think that it serves the story in parts.


Though he is at best the co-lead of the film Hugo Weaving’s Matt Perry is the centre of the film.  A man who has suffered one of life’s greatest losses and yet still believe that humans can redeem themselves.  He still holds out hope despite the harsh working environment he is in.  Weaving performs the tightrope act required of him by the role of instilling emotion without it becoming too hammy.  He really has to reign himself in during several scenes to accomplish this and demonstrates he is more than up to the task.


Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving – The Matrix, V For Vendetta) works as a case worker at Won Wron low-security prison farm.  This prison is a working farm that gives men a chance to spend the last few years of their sentence devoting themselves to physical labour.  When a man at the end of his eighteen year murder sentence, Viktor Khadem (Don Hany – appeared in an episode of Legend of the Seeker), arrives at the prison almost everyone’s life changes.


Still not hardened by his life or working environment, Perry still believes that he can help the men under him.  With that in mind and a unique position due to his friendship with Glynis (Jane Menelaus – Quills, The Dish), a woman who works with birds, Perry pitches the idea to his boss that they start a large bird rehabilitation facility at Won Wron.  It is not an easy sell, but he manages it.  Tenderness and thoughtfulness are his two usual go-to backdrops.


Perry selects Viktor as the team leader and tells him he can select two other prisoners to work at the aviary with him.  Viktor selects his two roommates Paul (Xavier Samuel – The Loved Ones, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) and the more dubious Shane (Mark Leonard Winter).  The three men build the facility with the help of other inmates and tend the birds that are brought to them.


Viktor bonds with an injured wedge tailed eagle named Jasmine.  He works with her and the bird responds only to him.  Even the sullen Paul seems to come out of his shell around the creatures.  Shane…well, he’s Shane.  Perry begins to wonder if the birds are the ones that are doing the healing.


Redemption is a theme that has been examined over and over in films.  That is because we as a species want to believe it is possible and for anyone in any situation.  It helps us sleep at night believing that we can be granted second chances after committing almost any act.  Healing is about that very thing.


Beautiful images captured by the cinematography of the film are another reason to see this film.  Not a surprise that the cinematographer of the film is Oscar winner Andrew Lesnie, who worked with Peter Jackson on his Lord of the Rings trilogy.  At times you will feel like you are soaring through the skies with the birds.  I scratched my head a couple of times wondering how they got some of the shots they did.  Aerial views of the brush of Australia are stunning.


Healing is the type of film that you will have to stumble upon to find.  A small film that will live in the shadow of big studio pictures from Hollywood.  I am here to tell you that if you can get your hands on it do!  It is definitely a film that deserves to be seen by a large audience.

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