Running time: 119 minutes
Director: Craig Monahan
Cast: Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, Xavier Samuel, Mark Leonard Winter, Justine Clarke
Released: 1 May, 2014
Viktor (Don Hany) is a long-term prisoner who has just been transferred to a minimum security jail to serve out the rest of his sentence, and to prepare for his return to the civilian world. He’s a damaged and bitter man, harbouring great fears about his ability to reconnect with his family on the outside.
His case manager at this prison is Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), a liberal, empathetic officer who is coming to terms with a tragedy in his own family. Matt is attempting to introduce a programme to the facility in which prisoners would participate in the rehabilitation of injured birds of prey. Victor is the first to be involved in this experiment and he is given the task of caring for Jasmine, an injured wedge-tailed eagle. Initially terrified of the massive bird, he slowly learns to relate to her, and to understand that it takes time to build a rapport and to win trust.
This film was inspired by an actual story in a newspaper many years ago about a similar programme at a prison farm in Victoria. A nearby animal and bird sanctuary had approached the prison regarding the possibility of the in-mates helping to heal injured birds, with the intention of preparing them for a return to their natural habitat. The parallels with the prisoners who are nearing the end of the sentences and also preparing to return to their former environs were obvious to director/co-writer Monahan. Along with his collaborators, he then spent a long time researching and pulling the story together, finding the right angle for it and getting it funded.
The birds almost steal the show, and there are many glorious scenes of them in flight and during their various rehabilitation routines. Great credit is due to bird handler, Andrew Payne, who supplied and trained all the birds used.
I was engrossed throughout the length of Healing, but some might find the scenes with the birds to be slightly too long.
This is a touching and beautifully shot film, full of humanity and compassion, which deserves to be seen.
Healing is out now in selected cinemas across Australia. See its trailer below.