Festival titles are returning to cinemas at such a rate that it seems like pre-Festival cinemagoer cynicism was well-placed. 50% of this week’s new releases were screening locally only a month ago but as they are easily the best half of the arrangement I’m inclined to be forgiving.
Armagan Ballantyne’s debut NZ feature The Strength of Water is a strikingly mature piece of work and one of the most affecting films I’ve seen this year. In a remote Hokianga village a pair of twins (excellent first-timers Melanie Mayall-Nahi and Hato Paparoa) share a special bond that tragedy can’t easily break. A mysterious young stranger (Isaac Barber) arrives on the scene, escaping from troubles of his own and… and then I really can’t say any more.
Full of surprises from the very first frame The Strength of Water shows that quality development time (including the support of the Sundance Institute) really can make a good script great. Ballantyne and writer Briar Grace-Smith offer us layers of fascination along with deep psychological truth and gritty Loach-ian realism. The mix is compelling and the end product is tremendous.