Once Were Warriors was about a family from the slums of New Zealand and their struggle with violence and getting back to their roots. When the movie began, the family seemed to be content with what they had. We saw a good relationship between the mother, Beth, and her children and a good relationship between her children. The mood changed quickly from loving and passionate to violent when the father, Jake, made his entrance into the movie. Before this mood change, I thought the movie would be about a family who was struggling financially but meant well. After the mood change, I realized that the family also had domestic issues and had problems with controlling their passion.
Throughout the movie, the mood would switch from hopeful and loving to hopeless and angry. I noticed that the family constantly used music to switch the mood from angry to happy. A few times the father, Jake, argued with his wife and when he was finished, he would start singing as if nothing happened. To me, it seemed that music symbolized hope for Jake and his family. In one scene, the family was singing a popular song together in the car and, for that moment, the family appeared to be loving and normal.
Alcohol seemed to take on the opposite effect on Jake. When the mood switched from happy to angry it was usually because Jake had been drinking. Jake’s character was usually the only violent one but he obviously had a strong influence on the rest of his family. We saw that, after drinking heavily, the mother, Beth, slapped one of her sons but then immediately felt guilt and remorse from it. Jake’s sons also show signs of aggression which has led them to join gangs. Violence is an important theme in this movie; it controls the relationships between the characters and contributes to each character’s personality. Jake is the most violent character and has a better relationship with alcohol and gambling than he does with his children. We can see how his aggressive attitude causes his children to either rebel or be afraid of him. As the movie progresses, Beth’s attitude towards Jake’s aggression changes and we see her character develop into a strong, independent woman.
Towards the end of the film, Beth reveals that their ancestors were strong warriors. After her revelation and another dose of disappointment from Jake, Beth finally takes a stance against her lousy and becomes determined to leave him. Two of the sons, Boogie and Nig, also grasp their warrior lineage. Nig joins a gang that holds strong brotherhood ideals. They cover themselves with intimidating tattoos and sometimes turn violent but we can see that they are comparable to warriors because they have a deep bond with one another. The other son, Boogie, gets taken away by social services and eventually delves into traditional fighting. This allows him to appreciate the culture he comes from and to take out his angst from his family issues. Even though both boys had to get away from the family to get in touch with their culture, they eventually overcame their familial struggles by becoming warriors.
Their sister, Grace, was not as lucky. She never got the opportunity to leave her family although she had wishful thinking. Grace’s character represented her character well: she was responsible and caring for her younger siblings and always tried to stay positive and hopeful despite her circumstances. She took solace in her writing and by visiting a homeless friend. I did not think a person like Grace deserved to be in her situation and I thought she was very strong to be able to deal with her irresponsible parents. Grace constantly mentioned that she did not need a man to make her happy and that she had no intentions of marrying. This is probably because she does not want a marriage like her parents and the men in her life are all violent and unsuccessful. Eventually, men cause the downfall of Grace’s character. One of her father’s friends rapes her, her best friend tries to kiss her and her father tears apart her writing notebook. These men take away her innocence and hope and cause Grace to lose all of the faith she had in herself and eventually she commits suicide. Initially, I thought she might be the one to help her mother and siblings get away from Jake by some miraculous opportunity. In the end, Grace did help her mother and her siblings to escape but only through her suicide.