Healing: New Preview Clip Featuring Hugo Weaving; New Reviews; Strangerland Sales Launch at Cannes

Pinnacle Films has generously shared a two-minute clip from Healing which features Hugo Weaving’s character Matt Perry. Spoiler-phobes should be aware that it must come from near the beginning of the film, as it addresses the creation of the prison raptor aviary which is the focus of the entire plot:

Via Pinnacle’s Facebook Page

Composer David Hirschfelder spoke to The Sydney Morning Herald about his scoring of the film. Don Hany contnues to appear at preview screenings and Q&As (sometimes with director Craig Monahan. He was interviewed on Network Ten’s The Project… but, alas, that clip, like most Network Ten content these days, seems to be blocked from international viewers.

Reviews for the film continue to be largely positive, though a few cynics have chimed in with complaints about the film’s quiet, contemplative pacing and lack of shocking twists. While I’ve made criticisms like this about more than a few pretentious arthouse films (the oeuvre of Terrence Malick springs to mind), I get the sense that most of the complaints in this case derive from the film not being the sort of “prison film” they expected, or from critics who simply don’t find the subject matter interesting to begin with. (Me, I could watch birds of prey in my yard for hours…) Some also don’t find the redemption angle of the story credible, though Healing is loosely based on a true story and is set at a low-security facility for prisoners who are largely rehabilitated rather than among highly violent offenders. Still, I do want to  share a cross-section of thoughtfully-written reviews whether I believe my response to the film will be similar or not. A lot of people I respect didn’t “get” Mystery Road or thought it was too slow. I find such opinions a bit daft, but would also find a 100% critical consensus on ANY film suspicious. No film is made for every audience.

Louise Keller, Urban Cinefile: “While the ideas resonate emotionally, propelled by strong performances, the film drags in parts with the construct apparent. However there are many good things, including a fine score by David Hirschfelder and stunning cinematography by Andrew Lesnie in which falcons and eagles are shown in flight, their glorious wingspans in full display above the lazy rural Victorian setting…

Weaving is as good as ever – the fact that his Senior Officer Matt Perry has his own personal issues, brings pathos to the role, even though the premise seems somewhat contrived. The scene in which Paul is forced to release the owl with the extraordinary markings and saucer eyes into the wild has great poignancy as do the scenes between Viktor and Yasmine. Most successful is the bitter sweetness that Monahan achieves in depicting the emotional journey of the men who have become attached to the birds and must set them free. It is a pity the film does not soar as freely.”

Andrew L Urban, Urban Cinefile: “The symbolic metaphor of birds (freedom) and prisoners (no freedom) provides the inner tension in Healing, the simple but descriptively titled new film from Craig Monahan, who made one of my favourite Aussie dramas, The Interview (1998), starring Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin. They must have got on well because they’re together again in Healing…The two veteran actors are joined by a varied and wonderful cast…

Supple, meandering and sometimes besotted with the beauty of its own creations, the screenplay tries to embrace several inter-related themes, but fumbles the process. The obligatory prison rivalries, while no doubt essential for contextual veracity, distract from the narrative drive, diluting the power of the central story…

Andrew Lesnie’s photography is a standout, and David Hirschfelder’s score is like a power booster, sometimes reminiscent of his sweeping score for The Owls of Ga’hoole … with the owls in Healing adding the visual recall… A great deal of effort has gone into capturing the birds on screen – without capturing them from their freedom – and the close ups as well as the flying are special treats.”

Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide: “Andrew Lesnie’s lensing of these magnificent birds in flight is exhilarating, leaving the audiences rapt in the rapture of these raptors – wide of wing, sharp of eye and talon, unfettered freedom in motion…

Director Craig Monahan continues his collaboration with Hugo Weaving, casting him as Matt Perry, the catalyst between prisoner and bird of prey…  Weaving is reunited with Tony Martin his co star from Monahan’s feature debut, The Interview. Here he plays a fellow prison officer, cynical and pessimistic about the power of the programme.  Monahan has assembled a strong ensemble supporting cast to play the archetypal prison inmates….

The real stars, of course, are the magnificent birds – majestic, noble, exquisite. Either perched or in full flight, they are eminently watchable… HEALING is a packed to the raptors entertainment with enormous heart.”

Hugo Weaving and Tony Martin in Healing   Photo: Pinnacle Films

Lyndsay Kenwright, altmedia.net.au: “Despite the obvious title, Healing is an Australian film that is worth watching – beautiful cinematography and an evocative story with great characters… Sarah Greer, Lawyers weeklyThe mise-en-scène and the elegant movements offer thoughtful symbolism.”

Sarah Greer, Lawyers Weekly: “[A]  prison story neither depressing nor didactic but thought provoking and quintessentially Australian…

Healing is a film of uncommon beauty and intelligence which explores crime and punishment, family relationships, racism, religion, recidivism, grief, love and hope…

Senior Officer Matt Perry [is] played perfectly understatedly by Hugo Weaving…

Even before the film’s completion, Monahan and Nisselle’s screenplay won the Gadens Queensland Literary Award for Feature Film Script. In different creative hands, Healing could have been a gruelling morality tale. Told as it is, the story’s power lies in its light touch and restraint. The many parallels between man and bird need no exposition…

While dealing with important ideas about right and wrong, Healing’s conscious refusal to preach, underestimate its audience’s intelligence or answer its own questions is maintained to the end. Without disclosing the film’s conclusion, it restores our faith in humanity and, momentarily, our justice system.”

Michael Perrot, The Movie Hound/couch.com.au: “While Healing drags and gets a bit over sentimental at times, there’s a lot to like in this movie. What with its fine Australian cast, a lot of characters who are in competition with each other, and all nursing secret and hidden problems…

Criag Monahan and his feature debut co-writer Alison Nisselle, have created a beautiful film about people and birds working together, all confined in a prison farm set in a peaceful rural setting. Their highlighting the competitive nature of the prison environment ensures an interest in all the characters, the prisoners, their guards and those outside the prison environment. But it also creates too many subplots which tend to detract from the heart of the story. Andrew Lesnie’s cinematography is brilliant, especially his bird photography, and David Hirschfelder’s musical score which adds majesty to Lesnie’s bird photography.”


A new report from Screen Daily confirms what earlier news reports from the film’s Broken Hill set (and some cast members’ sudden disappearance from Australia) suggested: that Strangerland has indeed wrapped production. The article shares the first official still from the film (below) featuring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes in the aftermath of the dust storm which got so much press attention during the shoot. Screen Daily also notes that Strangerland will launch its international sales campaign at  the Cannes Film Festival, which begins later this month. Since Strangerland can’t possibly be completed, it’s probable that the distributor (Wild Bunch) is trying to sell the film to international markets based on the cast’s reputation, and possibly some raw footage, stills or the script. But it’s good to hear it’s already being marketed. Tim Winton’s The Turning STILL doesn’t have North American distribution, and has only screened at a few festivals outside Australia.

The Film Stage features the same report, plus this new synopsis: “Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matt Parker are trying to adjust to their new life in the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari. They are pleasant but keep to themselves, unwilling to get close to anyone. On the eve of a massive dust storm, their lives are rocked when their two teenage children, Lily and Tom disappear into the desert. With Nathgari now eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the locals join the search lead by local cop, David Rae (Hugo Weaving). It soon becomes apparent that something terrible may have happened to them. Suspicion is cast, rumors spread and ancient Aboriginal stories are told in whispers as the locals begin to turn against the couple. With temperatures rising and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink, as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate.”

This indicates that the dust storm happens near the beginning of the film, and thus is not a major plot spoiler.

Mystery Road Festival Screening

Finally, Chicago residents will have an opportunity to see Mystery Road on May 14 when it screens as part of the Chicago Critics Film Festival.  Ain’t It Cool News provided more details and a nice plug for the event. Music Box Theater is the venue. US Hugo fans may remember that The Music Box Theater was one of the few cinemas to screen Last Ride during its brief 2012 theatrical run, and that the associated Music Box Films distributed it here.



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