Release date: 8th May 2014

Director: Craig Monahan

Cast: Don Hany, Hugo Weaving, Xavier Samuel, Tony Martin, Mark Winter

Classification: M (Coarse Language)

Review by Peter Gray

In the new Australian production ‘Healing’, metaphorical symbolism is not in short supply as the simple but descriptive title assures us much will be done between the prisoners of a low security pre-release prison farm and the injured raptors they’ve been ask to rehabilitate. It’s an interesting premise, and one that allows for an emotional response, but writer/director Craig Monahan has perhaps cooked up a few too many subplots which unfortunately detract from the heart of the film, one whose core was strong enough as is.

Set in Victoria’s Won Wron Prison, a minimum security estate designed to naturalize prisoners on the tail-end of their individual sentences, ‘Healing’ focuses on Iranian inmate Viktor Kahdem (Don Hany) and the majestic eagle Yasmine he is assigned to re-educate. Given that Yasmine is a particular breed of eagle and viewed as a sacred hunting bird in Iran, the journey Viktor takes with her is indeed an emotional one as he battles his own demons in the process. In addition to learning how to handle such an unpredictable creature, Viktor finds an unlikely companion in his case worker Matt Perry (Hugo Weaving), a State Officer who refuses to give up on Viktor the way the system has so many times before. With Perry struggling with his own issues, it’s safe to say he too finds an outlet with Viktor and the raptors.

Don Hany,  Dimitri Baveas

Don Hany
Dimitri Baveas

With such strong performances across the board and stunning cinematography from Andrew Lesnie, the soaring shots of the eagles in full flight are truly breathtaking, it is quite a shame that the film doesn’t fly as freely with secondary plot lines failing to add any true gravitas overall. Xavier Samuel and Mark Winter are the main players in these particular arcs, and whilst both actors deliver solid performances, it appears to come across more as a design to add a little weight to their characters; it’s always appreciated for side players to be wholly recognised but the simpler, quieter moments these two share speak volumes over the excessively fleshed out backstories they’re given.

Hany, a staple of Australian TV with ‘Rake’, ‘Offspring’ and ‘Tangle’ to his credits, is the main reason ‘Healing’ works as well as it does with his enigmatic presence dominating every frame he appears in. Viktor is a flawed character, but he’s one you root for as Hany portrays him with the right amount of vulnerability and wilfulness. Weaving is, of course, just as good, overcoming the occasional contrived plot devices to deliver a stellar performance that never borders on the stereotype his character could’ve very easily fallen victim to.

It’s obvious at the amount of heart and detail that has gone into ‘Healing’, an Australian film receiving a national theatrical release is something to always be supportive of, and though it may not rise as majestically as its winged cast members, it is still a beautifully realised journey that benefits from a human element seemingly in short supply in current cinema.

My rating 3.5/5
photo credit to Mirri Jennings

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