River Queen

River Queen

River Queen

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.

Best Cinematography and Costume Design at the NZ Film Awards 2006.
2005Rating: M, contains violence114 minsNew Zealand, UKEnglish and Maori (with subtitles)
DramaHistorical
Director:
Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come, Map Of The Human Heart, The Navigator, Vigil)
Writer:
Vincent WardToa Fraser
Cast:
Kiefer SutherlandCliff CurtisSamantha MortonTemuera MorrisonStephen Rea

River Queen / Reviews

Variety

Variety

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
New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

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

Full review
New Zealand Listener

New Zealand Listener

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
Hollywood Reporter

Hollywood Reporter

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

Full review
Dominion Post

Dominion Post

A piercing, contemporary analysis... Deeply thought and charged, it teaches and warns, as well as entertains...

Full review
BBC

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