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Hunt for the Wilderpeople:”Majestical”



Being a teenager comes with many challenges. They can be rebellious, self-absorbed, resistant to authority while operating through a maze of social, emotional and intellectual challenges.

Teenagers can be silent, difficult, display mood shifts and get angry. Sounds like a lot of adults, too.

It’s a period during which teenagers develop their own personality, a sense of self and navigate the world and relationships they are forming.

And then there’s Ricky (Julian Dennison). In Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Ricky is young and has attitude. Where do you start with Ricky? Ricky asserts his personal identity. That includes spitting at people, burning peoples’ letter boxes, shoplifting, spraying graffiti on buildings and running away from foster care. In between all those activities, Ricky is sullen and surly. The social worker calls him a bad egg. Ricky is all kinds of ‘bad’.

Police Officer Andy, Paula & 'Bad Egg' Ricky


Things are grim and the childcare authorities have reached the end of the road with Ricky. Social worker Paula (Rachel House) tells Ricky point-blank that no-one else wants him. The end of the road is both figurative regarding his behaviour, and literal, because they have taken Ricky to a remote house in New Zealand. The authorities hope the family living there can rescue Ricky and provide a stable environment for Ricky to live.

Ricky's not the new kid in town, he’s the new kid in the bush and there is no town, just the house and the family that lives there.

When I say a ‘family’, I mean eccentric Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and cantankerous Hec (Sam Neill). There’s a reason they live away from towns and society in general. Because they are eccentric and cantankerous.

Yet, somehow, they manage to maintain a stable, caring, warm and loving relationship in a house that Ricky describes as being full of dead stuff. End of the road not only refers to Ricky but to Bella and Hec. They, too, are outsiders.

If you think that Bella and Hec embrace wild-child Ricky and live happily ever after, you better put on a different hat. Things don’t go smoothly. Hec’s response to Ricky asking what he should do is, “Leave me alone.”

Ricky and Hec are two lost souls searching for a place that will embrace and accept them. Until that time, they have to share a remote farm with Bella, a few horses and wild pigs in the bush. Oh, and the odd wild human who advocates wearing metal helmets to prevent the government reading your mind.

Hec & Ricky versus Wild


Bella’s idiosyncrasies are exactly what Ricky needs. She hugs him, makes caustic comments about his weight that somehow are like a loving caress and composes and sings spontaneous birthday songs when it’s Ricky’s birthday. When Ricky wants something to do and asks if he can shoot the horses, Bella asks why they can’t just be horses.

Both Bella and Hec’s gruffness and seeming detachment are exactly what Ricky needs. When Ricky threatens to run away, Bella asks him if he’d like pancakes for breakfast when he’s finished running away.


Hec, Bella & Ricky


Ricky and Hec are opposite ends of the same personality, one at the end of his life and the other entering his formative years.

Then things go awry. Following an unexpected, tragic incident, Hec and Ricky find themselves alone and lost in the woods. They are confronted with a set of life’s lessons.


Ricky & Hec: The Wilderpeople


In order to maintain whatever sense of freedom they have and avoid being separated by the authorities, Hec and Ricky join forces in the wilderness. Hec has the knowledge and skills in the wild, while Ricky has the cunning and ability to transform himself from an urban dweller to someone who develops an understanding of what it is to both rely on and support someone else, in this case Hec. He does this while surviving the trials that confront him, not just in the physical environment but within himself. At many levels—personal, interpersonal and natural—this is a survival story.

It also becomes a quest to reach a spiritual place Ricky and Bella refer to as ‘close to the sky’, a bush destination representing calm, happiness and satisfaction. It becomes a unifying imaginary place for Hec and Ricky. It gives them solace and purpose.


"Close to the sky"


Hec and Ricky’s escape from the authorities lasts for months. From being outsiders and not abiding by social norms, they survive the natural and human ordeals placed in front of them and learn to have a sense of freedom and most importantly, to know the meaning of family in the broadest and most cherished sense.

Humourist Oscar Wilde said, “You don’t love someone for their looks, or for their fancy car but because they sing a song only you can hear.”

Bella sings lots of songs that Hec and Ricky learn to hear. While listening, they reconfigure their gruff personalities, re-capture their interconnectedness and see the world in a different framework. That’s a winning approach. And Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a heart-warming, gentle and winning film.

Connecting with Bella, Ricky and Hec, as well as Paula, officer Andy and the wild people, will make you happy watching movies.


Official trailer Hunt for the Wilderpeople



Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

New Zealand

Directed by Taika Waititi


WATCH: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (via justwatch.com streaming services)

WATCH: Hunt for the Wilderpeople (via New Zealand Film Commission)

Check availability in your region.

Other films by Taika Waititi




FILM EXTRAS: Family Matters


Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The Hoover family -- a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano) and a grandfather (Alan Arkin) -- puts its own spin on dysfunctional by piling into a VW bus and heading to California to support a daughter (Abigail Breslin) in her bid to win the Little Miss Sunshine Contest. The tolerance of everyone involved is stretched to the limit as the group's quirks cause epic problems as they travel along their interstate route.



WATCH: Little Miss Sunshine

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What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)

Gilbert Grape (Johnny Depp) is a small-town young man with a lot of responsibility. Gilbert is caught between his love for Becky and his responsibilities towards Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio), his brother who has an intellectual disability and a knack for finding trouble, and Bonnie, his incapacitated mother (Darlene Cates). Settled into a job at a grocery store and an ongoing affair with local woman Betty Carver (Mary Steenburgen), Gilbert finally has his life shaken up by the free-spirited Becky (Juliette Lewis).


WATCH: What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

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