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An ex surf pro is forced to take a job at a beachfront hotel teaching obnoxious tourists how to surf. Soon he's the tennis pro, the yoga instructor, the handyman - he might even be key to saving this family-run, Hawaiian-owned hotel.
The plot has an intricate, whodunit film noir feel that doesn't spoon feed us clues. If you pay attention, the subtle details will come back to you time and again. Like, "ah, THAT'S why ____ did that!" Can't really say much more about the plot without creating a spoiler alert, lol. Suffice to say ... it works.
The actors cast as the main characters Nohea and Kim (Moronai Kanekoa and Kristine Anapau) are both skilled pros, so they were able to carry the plot and validity of the premise. This is also true for supporting actors Augie Tulba and Mel Cabang - both local Hawaiian personalities who showed serious drama skills here. And Vene Chun's performance as Uncle Bossy was pivotal to the emotional success of the plot. Sonya Balmores as Rose was probably the most perfect casting I've ever seen - there is something ethereal about her that both beautiful and heartbreaking. Can't describe it. I'll stop here before I end up discussing every cast member.
Now about the Hawaiian aspect of Kuleana -
I've lived in Hawaii half my long life, and have seen so many movies and TV shows trying to get it right, but missing the boat a bit. (No pun intended). This one succeeds.
First of all, I am not Hawaiian, but I have great respect and affection for this culture. So know that I can only relate my experience through the lens of a non-Hawaiian. But having said that, I've got to say ... the authenticity and soul of the cultural aspect of this film truly touched me. Deeply.
Cinematically, I'd say that one of the trickiest aspects that Kohne accomplished was to keep the cultural aspect low key enough to not distract from the main plot, but to weave it throughtout in such a way that - by the time the credits rolled - that impact of it had me in tears. The "let me sit here for a minute" kind. In a good way.
I'm not sure what the mainland release possibilities are but if you have a chance, I highly recommend seeing it. At least once, if not twice.
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