The Rocket charms New York critics

13 January, 2014 by Don Groves

New York’s notoriously hard-to-please critics have embraced The Rocket with as much enthusiasm as their counterparts around the world since it premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it was named best debut film.

Kim Mordaunt’s Lao-set feature launched at two Gotham cinemas on Friday, beginning a roll-out which will encompass 24 cities through late February.


The Lao-language drama earned an estimated $US7,000 in three days at the IFC Centre, according to “While not stratospheric, the film showed a strong word of mouth bump, doubling its gross from Friday to Saturday night, consistent with its performance in other territories,” distributor Kino Lorber told Deadline.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern opined, “A special pleasure of moviegoing is sitting down with low expectations and coming out with surprised delight. The Rocket will do that for you…It's a small film, set in Laos, with a big theme—changing one's destiny.

“Kim Mordaunt's debut feature was shot with a mostly nonprofessional Laotian cast. You'd never know, though, that the amateurs hadn't had extensive experience.”

Village Voice John Oursler observed, “Making magnificent use of the Laotian landscape and tribal traditions, Australian director Kim Mordaunt's The Rocket is a coming-of-age tale infused with fantastic elements that more than compensate for its predictability.

“The Rocket's ample pleasures come from Mordaunt localising this tested formula rather than trying to reinvent it.”

The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis found it a “pretty, somewhat sleepy and finally strange once-upon-a-time tale… What gives this movie its sting is that, despite Mr. Mordaunt’s insistent attempts at uplift, death hovers over this story at every single moment, from the truck filled with bombs on which the family hitches a ride to the eye-poppingly dangerous rocket contest that gives the movie its title. Here, every smile feels etched in sorrow."

Time Out New York’s Andrew Frisicano declared, “Kim Mordaunt’s when-life-gives-you-land-mines tale is light on well-drawn characters but its performances, especially from the nonprofessional junior members, more than light the fuse for the finale.”