Hunt for the Wilderpeople

This is a unique, enthralling movie experience.

Hunt for the WilderpeopleHunt for the Wilderpeople ranks as one of the most stirring films to be released in 2016. It leaves you frequently laughing while simultaneously breaking your heart.

Director Taika Waititi, who previously brought us the very amusing What We Do In the Shadows, brings us the story of a homeless boy, Ricky (Julian Dennison), who was placed in a country home by the New Zealand government to give him one last chance at being part of a family. You will fall in love with Julian as he plays a city kid who has all but lost hope with living in the real world.

His new family consists of Aunt Bella (Rima Twiata), an adorable, humorous woman who immediately understands Ricky’s needs. On the other hand, her husband Hec is a sullen man who views Ricky as little more than an aggravation.

Tragedy follows, forcing Hec, Ricky, his little dog Tupac to flee to the wilderness as the government seeks to return Ricky to a juvenile facility. As they live off the land for weeks, a national bulletin is released offering a reward for their capture. In the process, Hec and Ricky have to confront their own relationship as they flee pursuing government forces.

Sam Neill is marvelous playing the taciturn Uncle Hec, and you begin to learn why he is all but incapable of experiencing any joy. Mr. Neill hasn’t been this good since his classic role in the original Jurassic Park (1993).

There are some other remarkable performances from several supporting actors, but let me simply acknowledge Rachel House and Rhys Darby. Ms. House plays Paula, the brooding director of Children’s Services who seeks to capture Ricky regardless of the consequences. Mr. Darby is outstanding as he plays a borderline insane hermit who tries to help our fleeing duo. It is impossible not to repeatedly laugh at their exploits.

This is a film about hope, love, tragedy and despair wrapped tightly around the secret ingredient of life’s journey, namely humor. I treasured every moment as I watched this splendid film.