Writer: Toa Fraser
Director: Toa Fraser
I don’t usually like feel-good movies. I like gritty. I cut a little slack for NZ movies. I liked Whale Rider. The reason that most feel good movies get up my nose is their sentimentalism, simplistic emotion, schmaltz, sugariness or, worse saccharine. If I’m going to feel really good at the end of something, I want it to be for a reason, hard-won in some way that has some depth, that illuminates something about the world or humanity.
Yes, I liked Me and You and Everyone We Know. I even liked “the Station Agent” (it went right to the limit, then pulled back). But I really did not like “Amelie” or , “Erin Brokovich”, as examples.
No. 2 I like because it is about life. Old Maria recognises the stuckness in herself and the system around her. A legacy from those who have gone before, the second world war, colonialism. In her irrascible way, she makes an intervention. Not a didactic or particularly calculated one but a disrupting one, none the less. She has been reading social complexity theory. It works because something shifts. Gradually, the associating, eating, singing, dancing, fighting, truth, love and leadership that she wishes for all emerge.
Maybe I am naiive, but for all the simplicity of the plot, I can’t say I found it predicatable. More, easy to go along with. And it was beautifully portrayed, with many funny scenes of ordinariness. I think my favourite was a dialogueless moment between Maria and Charlene in Maria’s bedroom. Yes, the music was stirring but the interaction between the two was rich and profoundly moving. That’s gotta be a measure of acting and directing.
I say “Yes” to this celebration of life with vivid performances from everyone in the cast.