An engaging tale with a good character type at the core
A teenager is hitchhiking in new Zealand but, unlike the million or so others doing the same, he is not on a gap year but rather someone going to see his birth mother now that he has her address. When a car finally does stop for him, it turns out to be a heavily tattooed man who the boy wearily accepts a lift from.
I never did that interrailing or hitchhiking thing when I was an older teen or post-university, but even if I had tried I really doubt I would have tried to hitch-hike and get into cars with strangers, and this film reminded me of that from the start. The boy has reason to worry since he had already abused the man, and the man clearly gives out bad vibes – as one does when you have a face swastika as one of your many tattoos. This impression is also made to the viewer and it is done in a way that is effective because we naturally do feel like this man is no good. Although the man does not turn out to be a hooker with a heart of gold, he does at least turn out to be a similar character to the boy – so he may well be the type of man who justifies the first impression, but at least in this case the shared experiences with the boy don't show that.
Well, maybe shared experiences is not the right word, but there certainly is something between them, as the man recognizes a lack of attachment in the boy, which manifests itself in rage and self- destruction to a certain degree. This is made clear in the final dialogue scene of the film (which is partly about the tattoos) and I thought it worked quite well since the two male characters were written in such a way that the connection and difference could be seen. The mother character is well delivered too, in her small scene she conveys the denial and also the shame of it, but really it is about the connection and recognition between the two men.
There is not an amazing level of detail here, nor a huge narrative to get lost in, but it is a well observed character piece, which also works to evade the expectations we have of an estranged mother and a tattooed stranger.
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