Saturday, 10 May 2014

Preview Screening: Healing

Soft and lightly paced, Healing takes it sweet time telling you its story. Its a cinematographers dream - Academy award winning cinemagician Andrew Leslie is given much artistic license in this film. The shots are never short and sharp but rather are quiet, lingering moments. We hear the wind, we absorb the august, illustrous views and we can almost feel the thick, cold smog kiss our skin as eagles soar through the blue of the wild morning. It's a refreshing piece of cinema which deviates away from generic storylines and whilst it is not exactly unpredictable, it is a clean, modern beautiful feature forwarding profound notions which are worth considering. It was once again a true privilege being able to meet the director, Craig Monahan and lead, Don Hany at the conclusion of the film.   

Healing introduces a small circle of prisoners who have just been transferred to minimum security prison in rural Victoria, Wron Wron. In particular, we have Viktor Kahdem (Don Hany), an Iranian man whom utters few words and is hard bent on remaining isolated. It is case worker Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving) who endeavours to incite some opportunities for rehabilitation via the introduction of an innovative new program. In collaboration with Healesville Sanctuary, Matt Perry brings injured raptors - proud creatures such as eagles, falcons and owls to the prison. Viktor Kahdem fronts the program, and we gradually come to see how it is actually a paradigm for his own Healing.  

True credit should go to Craig Monahan for his contributions to the sparse, "candid" film industry of Australia. Healing is an independent film with independent ideas which appreciates that no one comes from nothing. No one character is taken for granted - Monahan takes care in sensitively providing insights into each of the personalities. From the dark, brooding young Paul (Xavier Samuel) to threatening, manipulative figure Warren (Anthony Hayes - who always seems to play the asshole in films) to perhaps the most intriguing supporting character of all Shane (Mark Leonard Winter). Shane is neurotic and unpredictable, he is insecure and timid - his characterisation is completely, utterly perfect. 

The film is not however, without flaws - majority of these being in the latter half. As the film progressed the transitions from scene to scene became more clumsy. The number of unnecessary scenes gradually increased - with the audience seeing too many insignificant reflective interactions. Perhaps the greatest fallacy yet of Healing, is its hesitation in concluding, in struggling to finish with something simple, direct and satisfying. I see this often in films these days - directors find difficulty in wrapping it up - unable to conclude with one neat ending, they attempt to incorporate all of them. A ripe example of this error is in Baz Lhurman's adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Dazzling as the film was, it struggled endlessly in its conclusion. The film perpetuated too many scenes that would have been possible endings - which is a major shortcoming. I was left rather edgy, slightly impatient and tedium even crept slowly up towards the finale.  

Healing has been Craig Monahan's passion project for quite a while as he declared. It has been more than a decade in the making: the casting of Hugo Weaving however was a given, having appeared in a main role in every single one of Monahan's features. The true treasure however, the true star of the film is Don Hany. Rarely in cinema do we see someone play a character 20 years his senior. I am not too familiar with Don Hany and his work. Imagine  my surprise then when I met the man who played the solemn, heavily-accented 50-something year old and he turns out to be a confident and rather young man. Here, I came to a greater appreciation for the non-verbal attributions and impersonations of his character.

Whilst it stumbles at times in its own wake, hesitant and unnecessarily lengthy - Healing is fresh, quaint and sweet drama that majorly undermines its genre constraints. Now this, I approve of. 


Don Hany was a pleasure to meet. He was incredibly friendly, facilitating and charming. He shook our hands, offered to have a picture taken, even worked hard to find a place with better lighting and introduced us to his publicist. Altogether a great experience with a great actor. 

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