New Australian film “Healing” is a powerful story of redemption…that runs about half an hour too long.
Based on a true story, Viktor Kahdem (Don Hany), a feared man who has spent half his life in prison, is transferred to a low-security prison farm as he nears the end of his sentence. When Viktor comes to the aid of Yasmine, a majestic wedge tailed eagle during daily farm work, Case Worker Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), takes the opportunity to create an experimental rehabilitation program – for both bird and men. With the aid of first-timer Paul (Xavier Samuel) and prison staple Shane (Mark Leonard Winter) Viktor is given the responsibility or returning these injured birds to their previous glory, with surprising results.
The film unites Hugo Weaving and director Craig Monahan (“The Interview”) for the third time, and it is hard to think of another film where he is so understated and relaxed in his role. His performance is pitch perfect for the gruff but caring authoritarian figure, providing real heart and understanding to a character struggling with his own personal tragedy, without verging too far into sentimental land. Indeed all the performances are natural and pleasing, with relative newcomer Mark Leonard Winter standing out for his distinct take on character surviving at the bottom of the food chain.
Academy Award winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (“Lord of the Rings”) trades Middle Earth for the Australian bush but the results are no less spectacular, particularly when the camera is following Yasmine, the eagle with the two metre wingspan.
The journey is slow and steady with no violence normally associated with prison life. While the eco system of the prison farm is fascinating and uniquely represented, the pace slows down significantly towards the end, labouring messages and simpering out where it might have seared.
There is a lot of healing to be had in this film, not only from the birds but from broken men – both within the system and guarding the system – and it is great that characters that are usually on the other side of the glass case are given such front row treatment.
Worth seeing in the cinema for the incredible cinematography and acting performances.