May 23, 2014
There is a strong parallel between Viktor and Yasmine, who play leading roles inHealing, the new film from award-winning Australian writer/director Craig Monahan(The Interview, Peaches).
Viktor and Yasmine were both once powerful and feared, both are now damaged and they are both caged.
Based on a true story, Don Hany (East West 101, Offspring, Serangoon Road) plays real-life convicted murderer Viktor Khadem, who is transferred to Won Wron, a low-security prison farm in regional Victoria, to serve the final 12 months of his sentence.
Viktor, once a notorious, violent criminal, appears to be a broken man with little interest in his future. He seems to have nothing and no-one to return to on the outside; according to his records, he has received no visitors in the 18 years of his incarceration.
His caseworker, Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), is at a loss at how to break through the impenetrable shell Viktor has built around himself—until he comes up with an innovative program for inmates to rehabilitate injured raptors (eagles, falcons and owls) for release back to the wild.
He puts Viktor in charge of the program; by giving prisoners the responsibility of healing the birds, Perry hopes the rehabilitation will work both ways.
Enter Yasmine, a magnificent wedgetail eagle that flew into a barbed wire fence. As Viktor works tirelessly to prepare her for freedom, he has to face the prospect of his own release into a society he no longer knows.
Hany makes his feature film leading role debut with an impressive performance as the taciturn, brooding Viktor, while Weaving provides an excellent foil as the hard-working case worker struggling with a few demons of his own.
They are joined by a strong Aussie cast. Forming a relationship of sorts with Viktor as they tend the birds are Xavier Samuel (Twilight: Eclipse) as the introverted young inmate Paul and Mark Leonard Winter (Balibo, Winners and Losers), who gives a convincing performance as disturbed repeat-offender Shane.
While no doubt the criminal culture is somewhat sanitised in the film, Anthony Hayes (Animal Kingdom, Bikies Wars: Brothers in Arms) provides subtle menace with his portrayal of vicious stand-over man Warren.
Other noteworthy performances come from Jane Menelaus (Janus, The Dish) as Glynis, the down-to-earth raptor expert at Healesville Sanctuary and Dimitri Baveas(The Slap, Redfern Now) as Viktor’s estranged son Yousef.
It’s a moving story without being sentimental; we never forget these are men who have been convicted of taking the lives of others. But above all, it is a tale of redemption that explores the power a spark of hope can have in healing the human spirit.
Highlight: Scenes depicting the raptors in flight
Red flag: Coarse language, low-level violence