Sydney Arts Guide
May 4, 2014
Feathers don’t so much as fly as get ruffled in HEALING, a prison film that harks back to The Birdman of Alcatraz.
Analogies abound and parallels proliferate in this tale of rehabilitation, redemption and raptors.
Don Hany stars as Viktor, an Iranian incarcerated for an honour killing, now at the tail end of his sentence and held in a low security facility near the well named town of Healesville, where a nature sanctuary is hand in glove with the prison in a programme of healing injured birds.
Viktor’s prison officer case worker, Matt Perry, sees the Persian’s affinity with the tended feathered, borne from falconing in his youth in his homeland, and offers him a place in the program..
Building bird enclosures is not for aviary Tom, Dick or Harry, but Viktor takes to it like a duck to water, or more pertinently, an eagle to the sky, and this where the film flies.
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.
Anthony Hayes struts his simmering menace as self proclaimed ruler of the roost, Warren, a bad ass bantam who bullies Mark Leonard Winter’s simpleton, Shane, into shameful sabotage of the programme.
Xavier Samuel’s Paul is also easily intimidated by Warren and his intimates, but is taken under Victor’s wing, the older man attempting to promote the paternal protectiveness he failed at with his own son.
It’s all pretty blokey in this penal colony, but three females cut through the testosterone like a blowtorch through butter.
Jane Menelaus stars as Glynis, the sanctuary’s raptor expert and prison programme liaison officer. She has a talent for talons, a nose for beaks and an eagle eye for bullshit. She’s mentoring fellow bird handler Stacey, played by Laura Brent.
Justine Clarke features as a prison counsellor, who is looking out for the welfare of both prisoners and their overseers.
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.