Thoughts on “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

by weslar

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The bond is the most interesting development throughout Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the detail I could not be more invested in is the interaction between Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) & Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison).

The setup – a young 13 year old foster kid Ricky Baker is relocated to live with his new foster family. They are the last resort for Ricky as no-one, I repeat no-one, is able to care for him at all, due to the nature of his character, a troublemaker, someone who feels abandoned by his mother which has imprinted an uncaring mentality upon Ricky’s.

Bella (Rima Te Wiata), or adoptive Aunt Bella to Ricky has taken it upon herself to set this kid straight, to show him love that he’s never had and to give him stability to which he can learn from and grow. The opening 10 – 20 minutes focus solely around the two of them and their relationship forming – through hunting a bore in hilariously grotesque fashion – Ricky passes out at the sight of Bella, gutting it and smiling throughout. The comedic pacing and editing is constant throughout.

The contrast between Uncle Hec and Ricky is set from the beginning, the separation he wants to have from the kid leaves the impression that he is just another mouth to feed, and that he didn’t really want him in the first place.

Over the course of the opening act, Aunt Bella suddenly drops dead; just like that in a moment following hilarity caused my heart to stop, to be hit with such force shocked me. Although being followed by an inappropriately comedic funeral procession cameo lead by director Taika Waititi’s priest, aligned itself back into form. The story begins to shift gears as child services formulate a plan to remove Ricky from the property to relocate him to another home, that fact which doesn’t ring true with Ricky.

From here on out it becomes a manhunt to find Hector and Ricky. Paula (Rachel House) and her police colleague (Oscar Kightley) are back on the case to follow in the footsteps of Ricky and his mad Uncle Hec. This is the formation of the entire film going forward.

Throughout the journey there’s a lot to indulge in but no specifics I’d like to share, it’s best an experience when nothing is discussed beforehand. But as most of these films go, the focus draws from the interaction between the two leads, these two are polar opposites, both from completely different backgrounds.

Out of humour becomes the harsh reality of covering up emotion. Although the comedic elements in Hunt for the Wilderpeople show that these two are more in tune than they’d like to portray. The relationship grows and precipitates in a time that Hector thought against, their bond is forming and from the outside it’s heartwarming and charming, although a little awkward when Ricky doesn’t realise the innuendo riddle he spins in the middle of the manhunt for Uncle Hec; involving hunters and his uncle making him do things – I’ll leave that to your imagination.

Different points of contact change the flow of the film, including a branching moment where Ricky has to search for help for a ranger at death’s door in the woods has him splitting from Hector. Ricky meets a girl along the way and she brings him into her home, they share stories, sausages & an eager selfie-driven-father is Ricky’s biggest fan. His return journey to Hector propels the search for Hector, this showing Ricky’s newly adept nature at tracking and survival as apposed to Hectors judgement of them at the start.

A vast sprawl of New Zealand is explored in the film, the beautiful locations evoke the senses and heightens the emotions between the two. Their relationship can take a step back to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is best explored when they’re together. Ricky brings the ashes of Hector’s wife Bella along for the journey, only revealing them to him to give him a chance to scatter her ashes – a moment that leads to the connection being fully formed. That their future is together and to be a family.

It’s really moving to observe the films choice of taking two people from different backgrounds and having them form a bond over adversary, having the realisation that they’re not different from each other at all. That their lives meant something, but they just couldn’t understand until they tried to find it for themselves.

One of my favourite films of 2016, completely enthralled me. Beautifully shot and crafter story, editing, pacing, comedy.

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