Once Were Warriors is a film that takes place in Auckland New Zealand and allows viewers to explore the violent and dramatic lifestyle of the Heke family. As wife Beth desperately attempts to keep her family together and safe, her children begin to wish the opposite, as one joins a gang, one is sent to a group home, and another feels hopelessly alone. The graphic violence shown between characters allows the film to truly portray the fear that both the mother and her children face.
In order for myself to enjoy a film, I look for actors who become their character so well and can make an audience feel their same emotions. If a depressing moment occurs and I can tear up, then they have done a fantastic job as an actor. Once Were Warriors grasped my attention from the beginning when the husband Jake almost strikes Beth because she chooses to not be intimate with him. It was the first clue that Jake was a destructive person whenever he felt intimidated. It raised questions in my head such as “will he seriously ever hurt Beth or the children?” and “Is this a regular occurrence between Jake and Beth?”
During the scene where intoxicated Jake is abusing Beth, I was surprised to find myself at the edge of my seat as I felt fear for the character. When he brings her to the bedroom I understood that this film had no boundaries and would most likely contain more unfortunate events. Before watching the film, I had thought Once Were Warriors would be about a family finding themselves within their culture, however each character (besides the son in the group home) drew farther away from their cultural history. I enjoyed the scene where Beth was leaving Jake with the children because not only did she explain her ancestors were once warriors, but also how he had caused her to break away from her culture and family. This scene was truly powerful due to the series of events that had just previously occurred (it was revealed to Jake that his deceased thirteen year old daughter Grace had been raped by his close friend) as Jake is now abandoned by his family.
I would describe this film as a dark drama due to the family and friends aspect of the movie. I had hoped Beth’s relatives would have been more involved or shown throughout the film, however their presence towards the end during Grace’s burial was nice because to me, it was the beginning of the reunion between Beth and her family, possibly suggesting a happy ending after all. This film had multiple protagonists and antagonists. At first, I had associated the oldest son Nig as an antagonist with his father Jake because he had essentially abandoned his family to join a street gang and live up to his father’s name. Throughout the film I soon began to change my mind, as he still kept his family close to heart, protecting his mother from the attack of Jake at the bar during the end of the movie. Beth and Grace are protagonists because they search for the best in everyone, and constantly are trying to fix their broken family and lifestyle.
The most powerful scene that had the most impact on me was the moment Beth discovered Grace hanging from a tree, moments after she had committed suicide. Her reaction of pure despair instantly put me in tears, as I had been rooting for the two characters to break away from Jake and live happily together. During this scene I had looked around the room and had saw that this did not only affect me emotionally, but almost the entire class as well.
I would recommend this film to someone who enjoy foreign dramas and is curious about the Maori Culture. After the film had ended, I was left wondering what would happen to the Heke family. To my surprised to find that there is a sequel to the movie that will most likely answer all of my questions. I look forward to viewing the film either in or out of the classroom.