May 13, 2014
Rating out of 10: 8.5
It is widely regarded amongst those in the medical industry that animals can be such a powerful form of rehabilitation in patients. The latest film by Director Craig Monaghan (The Interview, 1998), Healing, is a powerful outdoor drama that shows the healing influences of animals which go beyond the traditional rehabilitation techniques for prisoners.
Inspired by a partnership between the Victorian penal system and the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary in country Victoria, Healing is based in Won Wron, a minimum security inland prison farm where prisoners go in the process of leaving jail and learning to adapt back into society. Here they have a rehabilitation system for wounded birds like eagles and falcons. Inmates care for these injured birds, who they then return to freedom when they are fully recovered. The program was initiated by prison officer Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving) who is going through his own issues after losing his daughter to cancer.
Prisoner Victor Khadem (brilliant Don Hany in his first feature role) arrives at Won Wron. He has been in Pentridge for 16 years following the murder of a man who dishonoured him. Victor has basically given up on life after losing contact with his long estranged Iranian family. On arrival, he has to deal with fellow inmates who are each battling their own inner demons. First timer Paul (Xavier Samuel from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse) hides his shame from his father, while Warren (Anthony Hayes) plans to set himself up as the ‘Top Dog’ and he wants fellow inmate Shane (Mark Leonard Winter) to help him.
Perry is their caseworker and decides to assign them all to the new raptor aviaries for wounded falcons from the local wildlife sanctuary. He puts Victor in charge after he sees the once-aggressive prisoner immediately change as he protects and removes a Wedge-Tailed Eagle imprisoned on a fence. It is not long before it becomes obvious that the the inmates are as flawed and damaged as the birds they are helping to return to nature.
This is a magnificently shot film. Academy Award winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (Lord of the Rings trilogy) has used spectacular shots of the birds soaring over the Victorian fields, almost taking the attention of the actors!
While Healing avoids the usual high energy intensity of the customary prison films, its power comes from its reminder of the importance of rehabilitation, family reconciliation and second chances.