Aussie redemption drama praised

12 February, 2014 by Don Groves

Director Craig Monahan’s first film in 10 years is an intelligent and satisfying drama.

That’s according to the first reviews for Healing, which is screening at the European Film Market in Berlin.


Don Hany, Hugo Weaving, Xavier Samuel and Anthony Hayes star in the film scripted by Monahan (who last directed Peaches in 2004) and Alison Nisselle, inspired by a real-life alliance between the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and Prisons Victoria.

“A group of conflicted men, prisoners and inmates discover the majesty of great birds — and through them, the cleansing power of redemption — in the deeply felt outdoor drama Healing,” said Variety's Eddie Cockrell.

“The first film in a decade from director and co-writer Craig Monahan, whose 1998 psychological thriller The Interview remains an uncommonly smart genre piece, this equally intelligent and satisfying item will prove therapeutic to distribs on the hunt for quality fare.”

Hany plays Viktor, a crim of Iranian background who is serving a long stretch for murder.  Weaving is prison officer Matt, who runs a rehabilitation program for the inmates who care for wounded eagles and other big birds in a minimum-security prison farm.

“It’s refreshing to see a film that takes its own sweet time building characters and the subtle conflicts simmering among them. Led by the familiar and bankable Weaving, the cast, under Monahan’s sure guidance, deftly underplays what could have been, in other hands, an awkward melodrama,” said Cockrell.

"Ace d.p. Andrew Lesnie’s immaculate widescreen photography is the next best thing to being in the bush at the magic hour, while longtime Monahan associate Suresh Ayyar’s intuitive editing reinforces the slowed-down pace of country life."

Screen Daily's Frank Hatherley found that although the outcomes to the three main storylines are "hardly in doubt, the heartfelt tale is told with plenty of soaring nature shots in and above Victoria’s photogenic Macedon Ranges."

Hatherley praised the performances by Weaving and Hany and by Samuel and Mark Leonard Winter as fellow inmates, adding: "There’s a splendid symphonic score by David Hirschfelder (Australia, Children Of The Silk Road) featuring Persian/Asian elements."

Produced by Tait Brady and Monahan’s Pointblank Pictures,  Healing opens in Australia on May 8 via Pinnacle Films.

Lightning Entertainment consultant Richard Guardian is pitching the film to buyers in Berlin.