Small-town Kiwi films can be difficult to recommend to people who aren’t actually from those small towns. Despite good intentions, these productions have a habit of feeling a bit too straight-to-TV, written with a bit too much cheese-n-corn, and relying a bit too much on non-actors. This Kaipara Harbour tale does suffer from all these things, but never too much. Thankfully, it has enough humour and community charm to make for a pleasant 85-minute watch.
Two mates – Kiwi Scotsman Brian and Māori man Wiremu – find an elderly local passed away on his favourite fishing spot. Weirdly, they don’t seem all that shaken by the death, but are very surprised to see his last line has snagged a massive snapper. Wiremu does the sensible thing and calls an ambulance. Brian, jobless and in debt, does the dishonourable thing and keeps the catch in the hope of ‘winning’ a fishing contest.
Tainui Tukiwaho, who was great in Jake, shoots all the golden lines, and the film is at its best when his character Wiremu and Brian (Nicol Munro) are digging into each other in traditional matehood fashion. (A great scene involving liquor and “operating heavy machinery” is played out so naturally.) Unfortunately, the film stretches itself trying to get us to care about Brian’s plight. Will he choose greed over his mates? It’s a recycled plotline that isn’t improved on, and Munro can’t add anything to the drama.
Fortunately, The Catch eventually takes a more eco-sensible stance that feels more unique. You can accuse the message of being delivered heavy-handedly, but some morals shouldn’t be subtle. Overfishing is a serious issue, and I’m happy there’s a New Zealand film that states it as it is. Though I’m sure The Catch would rather state it: “Don’t fish like a dick.”