It’s an interesting coincidence that both of the new Kiwi movies currently showing cover similar subject matter - both involve juvenile delinquents getting into a dangerous predicament alongside a reclusive adult, with everyone eventually bonding and becoming better people.
However, the two movies have different tones: Orphans & Kingdoms has fewer laughs than Hunt For The Wilderpeople (understandable as it isn’t a comedy), but it is well worth watching.
In O&K the delinquents in question are Jesse, Tibs and Kenae (played by Jesse-James Rehu Pickery, Hanelle Harris and Calae Hignett-Morgan). Homeless and parent-less, they decide to break into a lavish mansion on Waiheke Island, assuming it to be unoccupied. But the owner, a man named Jeremy (played by Colin Moy from In My Father’s Den) soon arrives home. Further complications ensue and the situation becomes dire for both parties, but when Jeremy has the opportunity of turning his captors in to the police, he considers helping them escape instead.
This sounds like it could potentially become quite corny if it weren’t clear that Jeremy isn’t of sound mind. His decision to help the teenagers involves a lot of emotional transference, as we learn that he had been a neglectful father to his son in the past, and is still racked with guilt. The film never feels like a morality tale; more like a realistic story about a collision of wounded souls.
The four leads all give great performances, but it’s Moy and Hignett-Morgan who stand out the most. Kenae is the youngest of the three teens, the most volatile and threatening, and yet the most vulnerable. The characters of Jesse and Tibs had potential to be expanded on a bit more, and given the film’s quite short run-time of 75 minutes, I feel it could’ve easily included another five or six scenes without overstaying its welcome. However, the economical less-is-more approach might not be a bad thing.
Either way, the film certainly held my attention throughout, and continued to after I left the theatre.