Review: ‘Healing’ (M) ****

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WRITER/director Craig Monahan’s cinematic oeuvre may be small but it is beautifully formed. “Healing” is his fourth film. As well as showing absolutely spectacular footage of Australian raptors, it delivers a strong narrative in which deep human emotions are manifested by their suppression.

Turkish immigrant Viktor (Don Hany) arrives at Won Wron low-security prison farm to serve out his sentence. The authorities have assessed him as reformable. In 18 years, nobody has visited him.

A hunting wedge-tailed eagle has collided with a fence post and broken a wing bone. Other members of the work party would euthanase it but Viktor wants to save it. At Healesville wildlife reserve, veterinarian Glynis (Jane Menelaus) agrees.

By now, the film has polarised its intentions, to observe rehabilitation of two broken creatures.

The strict discipline of prison life matches the restraint that Viktor must practise as he cares for the eagle whom he names Yasmine. Her broken bones heal slowly. Bird and prisoner develop a relationship that the film depicts without sentimentality or loss of credibility.

Parallel sub-plots involve two young prisoners, one a bit of a tearaway, the other a victim of circumstances. In the farm’s other population of naughty blokes, one is really bad, making us wonder how he got there.

Don Hany and Hugo Weaving as the prison officer who sees the prospects of the Viktor/Yasmine relationship deliver first-rate performances in a cast that never misses a beat. And Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography, especially of the birds and other native wildlife, is nothing short of superb, as we might expect from the man who lensed three big films for that Kiwi film maker, Sir What’s-‘ís-name.

At Capitol 6 and Palace Electric

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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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