River Queen

River Queen

(2005)

Sarah (Samantha Morton) is a British settler during the time of the New Zealand land wars, where she falls pregnant to a Maori lad and bears a half cast son. The child is captured by his Maori grandfather seven years later and her life becomes dedicated to their re-unification. Her son is soon used as bait to draw her to the village of the rebel Maori. They want to use her knowledge of western medicine to cure their dying chief (Temuera Morrison). While there, she falls in love with her son's uncle (Cliff Curtis) and the native way of life, but the war continues to escalate. Sarah must make a decision - side with the Maori who include her son and the man she loves, or the settlers she grew up with, including Doyle (Kiefer Sutherland) a soldier who remained her friend while so many others shunned her.

Invoking Joseph Conrad's seminal book Heart of Darkness, River Queen was Vincent Ward's dream project - and his first film since What Dreams May Come seven years earlier. It opened at #1 at the New Zealand box office, but garnered the worst critical reviews of Ward's career. It became famous for it's troubled shoot, where Vincent Ward was said to have clashed with lead actress Morton. Ward was eventually removed from the film by producers (cinematographer Alun Bollinger finished up), but returned for post production.

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The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 6 ratings, 6 reviews
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Ward is attempting to place together two largely (at the time) incommensurable cultures, so critics' requirements for something seamless amd tidy are missing part of the point. The awkwardness of the many cultural and visual interfaces in the movie seem more appropriate than any generic dramatic "unity" or conventional historical film smoothness.


Like others have said, the story was hard to follow. Voice over seemed overused at the start and end and didn't seem to make things much clearer. I wonder which parts Vincent was removed for and if that really made anything better, or if Alun Bollard fixed things? Having worked on small shoots myself, I know the trouble that can crop up and I can tell someone was trying to rescue this flick in post. It feels like the writers didn't finish the job properly before filming started.


Vincent does a wonderful job to bring a new life into the cinema. This is a art house movie with splashings of grandeur. The underling story of a women finding her son is eclipsed by the share weight of beautiful scenes and fantastic battle scenes. It leaves you wanting more. You find that a collage of pictures that will stay with you for a long time. Mr Morrison does a fantastic job as the Moari chief in particular inspirational battle scene where the camera cuts to him in all his glory.... More Cliff Curtis is very od not looking at taking to many risks with the character and Raweri looking like he could have a bright future as the young son. Samantha I felt didn't give you time to breath and as this lead you into an on the edge performance I wasn't able to enjoy her. Much like her performance in IN AMERICA. Over all the movie is a must piece and a different DVD buy as well as great conversation over a few drinks.Hide


I have to agree with all the first critic has said. I think Morton's performance was outstanding. The film had me gripped for two hours and I still can't remove it from my mind.



Terrific.
The Dominion Post reviewer had it right. The NZ Herald and SST reviewers as is so often the case had it wrong.
Why haven't you got the review by Sam Edwards of the Waikato Times in your list of press reviews. Well worth reading. He gave it 4 stars too.
Thanks


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The Press Reviews

40% of critics recommend.
Rotten Tomatoes Score. More reviews on Rotten Tomatoes

  • BBC

    No doubt director Vincent Ward had higher hopes for his period drama, a 19th century saga about a young Irish woman (Samantha Morton) caught in the crossfire between warring British colonials and indigenous Maori tribesmen. Fine cinematography and the occasional battle scene apart, alas, the result is a sluggish bore that's as hard to fathom as Kiefer Sutherland's bizarre Oirish accent. Full Review

  • Contrived and unreal. Full Review

  • Filled with some striking imagery but which ultimately keeps viewer involvement at an unfathomable distance. Full Review

  • The film lacks chemistry and conviction and, except as unconscious and grotesque comedy, never really works. Full Review

  • Vincent Ward’s troubled River Queen finally appears this week, but it already feels consigned to the distant past. As in a hallucinated history of New Zealand film, the nutty romanticism of The Piano blends into the land-wars western Utu, but viewed through a dense, nearly impenetrable thicket of post-production tinkering – rambling voice-over, bombastic choral score, sudden lurches into slo-mo and over-editing – that suggests nothing so much as pre-release panic and an emptied bag of tricks. Full Review

  • 1/2 A piercing, contemporary analysis... Deeply thought and charged, it teaches and warns, as well as entertains... Full Review

  • Would that director Vincent Ward's embattled "River Queen" might have emerged unscathed from its troubled, headline-making production. This longtime dream project for the acclaimed Kiwi helmer -- and his first pic since "What Dreams May Come" in 1998 -- finally reaches the screen as a waterlogged would-be epic, lacking the emotion, narrative invention and visual brilliance that mark Ward's best films (including "The Navigator" and "Map of the Human Heart"). Having driven most of its Toronto industry screening audience into a deep slumber or early exit, "River" looks to be cast out to sea by most theatrical buyers. Full Review

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