Film Review – Healing

Healing (M)

Directed by: Craig Monahan

Starring: Don Hany, Hugo Weaving, Xavier Samuel

Three stars

Review by: Julian Wright

There is a lot of healing going on in Craig Monahan’s Healing. Taking a step in the opposite direction of subtlety, this tale of a handful of reforming (healing) prisoners working on a low security farm that nurse injured birds (healing) while one of them, Viktor, attempts to reconnect with his estranged son (healing familiy ties, geddit?).

Even the birds flying the coop and re-entering the wild is a a glaringly obvious metaphor for the inmates who are preparing for their own leap back in to the real world. Viktor even has a moment in which he feels overwhelmed and lost in the city on a day trip later mirrored by his favourite feathered patient’s failed attempt to re-engage with its natural environment. While the themes are hammered home with sledgehammer force, the message does make for an interesting and dramatic time passer.

At the end of a 16-year jail sentence, Middle Eastern Viktor (Don Hany) is transferred to a pre-release compound where he begins a program to care for injured wild birds and eagles with the help and guidance of a local rehabilitation centre and its staff. Viktor and his new fellow inmates, the quiet Paul (Xavier Samuels) and simpleton Shane (Mark Leonard Winter) build the aviaries under the watch of sympathetic guard Matt (Hugo Weaving) while trying to avoid compound bully Warren (Anthony Hayes).

The characters surrounding Viktor are thinly drawn presences that serve to create dramatic beats. Only Winter is allowed nuance and range with revelations of his plans upon release. Viktor is the core of the story and Hany does the character incredible justice. The TV heart-throb transforms himself into a weathered, emotionally beaten man whose circumstances have aged him beyond his years. It may have always been on the page that this character is lost, but Hany brings heartbreakingly to life.

The birds are majestic creatures and this is captured beautifully, but footage of them taking off and flying is slowed down far too often to the point of being downright hammy. It also happens so frequently that it surely adds about 10 minutes to the running time, detrimental to the overall impact of this quiet story which already moves at an injured bird’s pace.

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