Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople ★★★★

Along the lake front streets of Pokhara, Nepal are a couple of groovy-looking establishments that operate both as bars and as places that screen movies for the pleaure of any passer-by. There are a few of these places back home in Adelaide, South Australia - one of which, Sax & Violins Film Society, is sadly no more (this particular joint was cosy, inviting and host to an unspeakably wide range of movies). So it did warm the cockles of my heart to see similar spots so far from home, and in the gateway to the Himalayas of all places.

Whilst "Movie Garden" and its advertisement of a Reservoir Dogs screening was certainly tempting, my two travelling companions and I couldn't resist the sign outside the front out of "The Blind Tiger": Hunt for the Wilderpeople at 6:30pm. It had come up in conversation only yesterday when Caitlin and I urged Shaun to watch it when we all returned from our trip, being a fan of What We Do in the Shadows, Waititi's previous film. Besides, Shaun hadn't seen a film all year, so what better way to start than with this delightful gem of a movie?

Our bellies full of momos, the three of us headed up to the rooftop of this place, grabbed some hot chocolates and a cinnamon tea, took the blankets offered to each of us and joined the handful of tourists already seated on comfy wicker chairs in the chilly Nepalese night air...

New Zealand is considered by some to be the "Canada to Australia's USA". Hunt for the Wilderpeople suggests this may be true. It has the warmth, raucous wit and embrace of nature found in many Aussie productions, but it's slightly more bizarre and yes, slightly more endearing (and of course, the scenery more lush and beautiful). Taika Waititi breathes his love of his country into this movie, giving it a distinct New Zealand identity of which it is clearly proud. I can't speak as a New Zealander, but there are many little details that feel very personal, and unique to the experience of someone who knows New Zealand well. Everything from the Flake advertisement to the undercurrent of Maori mythology that courses through the film's veins is seemingly designed to be especially relatable to New Zealanders.

But this point doesn't render Hunt for the Wilderpeople inaccessible to others. It's a funny, charming, truly wholesome coming-of-age adventure and I feel a very simple, pure fondness for almost everything about it. The soundtrack in particular is always enjoyable and full of needle-drops that suggest Waititi and I may have pretty similar musical tastes. Regardless, I'm eagerly anticipating what he does next.

When the film was over, we left in high spirits and headed back to our hostel straight away. Is Hunt for the Wilderpeople a masterpiece of cinema? I wouldn't say so. But it was a real treat to see it on a rooftop in Nepal, chuckling at every madcap moment along with a group of strangers who were also far from home. The questions of where home is and where we belong are central to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, as Ricky and Hec learn to find a home from themselves in the wilderness. My idea of home may well be a hot chocolate, a warm blanket, the company of my loved ones, the smell of the night air and a good movie. Seeing this tonight was very much like a home away from home.

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