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jean watson

Review: Housebound & Aunty and the Star People

By Cinema, Reviews

In Gerard Johnstone’s tightly put togeth­er comedy-chiller Housebound, Morgana O’Reilly plays rebel-without-a-cause Kylie, forced by a judge to spend nine months of home deten­tion with a moth­er she detests in a house with a hid­den his­tory. It’s a star-making per­form­ance from O’Reilly in a film that’s full of them. In addi­tion to our surly heroine, we have an expertly pitched Rima Te Wiata as moth­er Miriam (why she hasn’t been seen in more fea­ture films is a long-standing mys­tery that is only deepened by her per­form­ance here), Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, the secur­ity guard attached to Kylie’s detail and dragged into invest­ig­at­ing the bumps in the night that plague the house, and the debutant writer-director himself.

Johnstone’s con­trol of his mater­i­al is first-rate, pro­du­cing com­par­is­ons in this reviewer’s mind with Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead fame, prob­ably the highest praise that I can come up with for a film like this one. He keeps the mys­tery mys­ter­i­ous even as more clues are unveiled, deliv­ers gags that work to pro­pel the story and illu­min­ate char­ac­ter rather than just being yucks for their own sake, and makes sure that there are enough scares that an audi­ence can nev­er really relax.

That word ‘audi­ence’ — it’s key to the suc­cess of Housebound. There’s no ques­tion that this film won’t have a long and suc­cess­ful life on vari­ous forms of home video, but it really comes to life with a full house.

Last year, one of the most sur­pris­ing suc­cesses in loc­al cinemas was Gardening With Soul, a doc­u­ment­ary about Sister Loyola Galvin, nona­gen­ari­an tender to the Sisters of Compassion garden in Island Bay. In 2014, we have anoth­er doc­u­ment­ary about an older Wellingtonian. Jean Watson isn’t quite 90, but the rev­el­a­tion that she is actu­ally in her 80s still comes as quite a sur­prise as we watch her ped­alling her bicycle around the small Indian town she loves — and whose children’s homes she has sup­por­ted for over 30 years, des­pite liv­ing in a mod­est Berhampore flat back in New Zealand.

Like the earli­er film, Aunty and the Star People is full of gen­er­os­ity and wis­dom, remind­ing us that we should be pay­ing much closer atten­tion to our eld­ers. They have much more than just their exper­i­ence to offer us.

Printed in the September issue of FishHead magazine in Wellington.