A weary, weather-beaten Don Hany (East West 101) is aged 20 years to channel Viktor, a convicted killer from Iran whose final stretch of an 18-year prison term is spent in a low-security prison farm run by a bird lover (Hugo Weaving, terrific in understated support).
Part of the re-assimilation program involves inmates caring for ailing birds, a task the emotionally bereft Viktor takes to like the proverbial duck to water, neatly reflecting his desperate effort to reassemble some semblance of a life for when he hits the streets.
Admittedly, Healing is very heavy on metaphors and symbols, yet director Craig Monahan (The Interview) – who co-wrote the film with veteran tapper Alison Nisselle (Janus; Phoenix) inspired by a real prison program – never makes the obvious feel forced or mawkish. This might be due to the film’s leisurely pace.
It might also possibly have something to do with Hany’s restrained, soulful performance; he finds the heart of a broken man facing the challenge to accept and rejoice life in a life that has fallen far short of what he dreamt.
Viktor’s journey is a bumpy one, yet he manages to find a moving renewal of spirit and a hard-earned degree of contentment in a gentle, humanist film that, thanks to local world-beating cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (Lord of the Rings), also looks beautiful.