Once Were Warriors

Corbin Gregory


Mr. Britos

Intro to Cinema Studies

Once Were Warriors is a quite an emotional movie. Having said that the director by Lee Tamahori makes hints to its sensitivity throughout the entirety of the film. One could say the whole movie is a snow ball effect and at the bottom is a bomb waiting to explode. Throughout this movie the family progressed worse with one another and the cause of this was of the father Jake Heke, played by Temuera Morrison who is one of the main character. He makes living conditions unsuitable for the household. He beats his wife (Beth Heke), holds his emotions in by drinking colossal sized beer and singing songs with friends. Not to mention spends no time with his kids. A good scenario to describe Jake Heke in the film is the scene where the family goes to see their son Boogie Heke. Boogie is away at a private school doing specialized learning in ancient customs to New Zealand as well as traditional schooling. The family is in the midst of traveling there and Jake decides to stop off for a drink at the pub. Upon entering the pub he never exits, leaving his wife and kids making them take a cab back home. As they are left without seeing their son. Another example is the lack of attention both parents show to their children. Upon viewing the film one can tell the mom is more caring then the father, but there are times in the film she shows negligence to her children. As soon as she opens her eyes to realize she has shown neglect though, it is too late. Her eldest daughter Grace then becomes the aforementioned bomb that goes off near the end of the movie.

When we talk about the issues with Grace it is clear the incident is set off by Bully, who is a drinking buddy of Jake Heke. Once again, this relates back to the Jake and Beth Heke always having people over. The parents were too busy worrying about having fun rather then tending to an adolescent girls problems. Also the scene after Grace is raped by Bully is an important scene as well. When the boy tries to kiss her in the abandoned car that  he calls his home. This did not help Grace better herself emotionally as she was seeking comfort through this boy. The filming of this movie I thought was good, basic, simple, but Lee Tamahori had a good story to run with. Trying to film outside of his means to better the film was unnecessary. My favorite shots would have to be the beginning and end shots of Grace in the film. The first time we see Grace is at the foot of the tree, outside the Heke home, telling us her favorite story. The story she tells multiple times in the film. I feel this shot is to resemble her life and the time she was happy. Being outside in the sun telling story to her younger sibling. Contrast this to the end of the film where the tree is a symbol of death. She stays raised above the same spot before at nighttime motion less. As we hear the screams of her mother wailing at the sight of her eldest daughter hanging from a sturdy branch. The representation is spot on and Mr. Tamahori uses the same setting to describe these contrasting elements. The acting from Rena Owen (Beth Heke) is fabulous. She plays a role of the submissive woman who is timid to standing up to her man. However, towards the end after the passing of Grace and having the backing of her children, is able to stand up to Jake and not let him bring her family down like he has throughout the film. I believe the role Nig Heke played, the eldest child in the Heke family. He belonged to a street gang and was quick to stand up to his father. In the ending scene Jake will not challenge Beth due to the fact Nig Heke is ready to defend his mother. In the end I got the impression the viewer is left with a happy medium feeling. We already took in the suicide to Grace, yet we see the Heke family all together with the exception of Jake, who will probably be facing murder charges from what he did to Bully. I think we can take from this film the realism and actuality alcohol abuse and devastate a family. I am happy to of said I’ve watched Once Were Warriors and will recommend it to friends. It was one of the first New Zealand directed films I had watched and it has enticed me to check out more.


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