Healing: Movie Review
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, Xavier Samuel, Mark Leonard Winter
Director: Craig Monahan
It's off to Melbourne Australia for this drama about the power of redemption set in a men's low-security prison.
Hugo Weaving plays Senior Officer Matt Perry, a grizzled and haunted man who's working towards redeeming his prisoners. Into his life and his WonWron low-security jail comes Viktor (Hany), who's spent 18 years in prison and has detached from life.
But when Viktor's given the responsibility of rehabilitating and looking after a group of injured birds, including raptors, owls, falcons and eagles, he begins to find an outlet which awakens him, thanks to an eagle called Yasmine.
However, Viktor faces other challenges too - including caring for Paul, a fellow inmate who comes to the jail at the same time he does - and to keep him away from the prison bullies and the fragile room-mate Shane (Winter), who teeters dangerously on the edge.
Healing is inspired by true events and has the power to move given the story it has to tell.
Yet, it's fatally crippled by a heavy-handed approach that eschews subtlety for sledge-hammering home the point at every available opportunity. The parallels with the men and the birds they take up with are increasingly obvious - from the proud and head-strong Viktor who's paired off with a majestic and selfish eagle to the quiet Paul, who's given an owl that becomes his confidante, every moment is manipulated for maximum effect.
Throw in a one-note prison bad guy who sets out to ruin things for all and the whole feeling of Healing begins to mire itself in self-indulgent mawkish moments which ruin the obviously emotional storyline. Sullen face Viktor is reasonably played by Hany (even if he does look like a perma-tanned Keith Lemon) and Weaving brings a degree of venerability to the wounded Perry, but the sedentary pace and gradual reveals of the sensitively told story are serviced by so many shots of the landscapes, close ups of birds and slow-mo shots of them swooping that the inevitable ending takes too long to arrive and delivers with a real lack of emotional resonance.
A touch more subtlety, a fleshing out of some of the underwritten main characters and an easing off of the overtly heavy handed imagery could have seen Healing really hit an emotional high - instead it's akin to a predictable range of emotional bombs being triggered without any overall effect.