'The Patriarch' as a title tells us more about this fine family drama than "Mahana". Right from the opening, you know you're about to be entertained in grand style. The screenplay by Scottish writer John Collee seems to capture novelist Witi Ihimaera's characters with all their charismatic colour but, some unnecessarily crude story elements and predictable situations don't hold up all that well. Temura Morrisson's portrayal of Grandfather is at times a little disturbing in his sternness, bordering on the downright cruel and sets a powerful, if not frightening presence. All performers bring their roles as family members and town's folk to vivid life and the production design creates a powerful atmosphere.
It's difficult to find words to do justice to the look of this movie – cinematographer Ginny Loane makes New Zealand's hills and valleys look like heaven on earth! Colourist, Set Decoration, Art Direction and Lighting Masters have infused external and internal settings with a haunting evocation of 50's – 60's moods. There's even a marvelous clip from the above-average 50's western '3.10 to Yuma' – complete with that haunting theme song in all its original arrangements - that I'm sure, would have been lifted right out of the writer's memories from the time.
This is movie-making as it once was, real, involving, something many viewers could identify with. It's just a pity the last quarter was not as convincing as the beginning - still, Congratulations are due to those involved – think I might be looking at this one again.
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