River Queen

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The ViewDunedin Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/02/2008

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

River Queen is beautifully shot, but it's also badly acted, poorly written, confusingly directed and frequently tedious, despite the occasional decent scene.

What's it all about?
Directed by Vincent Ward, River Queen is set in 1860s New Zealand and stars Samantha Morton as Sarah, a young Irish mother whose 7-year-old son, Boy (Nathan Passfield) is kidnapped by his Maori grandfather (Wi Kuki Kaa), a tribal chief. Abandoned by her father (Stephen Rea), Sarah tries to find her son, aided by her loyal friend Doyle (Kiefer Sutherland), a broken-down soldier.

Several years later, Sarah is reunited with her now teenaged son (Rawiri Pene) when she's summoned to his tribal village in order to heal the chief. However, when she falls for Boy's uncle Wiremu (Cliff Curtis), she finds herself having to pick a side when the chief declares war on the colonials.

The Good
To be fair, the film looks gorgeous throughout, thanks to impressive cinematography by Alun Bollinger, who also, not coincidentally, shot The Piano, which River Queen closely resembles in places. In addition, there are one or two excellent scenes (notably a gunfight and a dressing scene) but they're not really enough to compensate for the general tedium.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is the script, which commits a multitude of sins, ranging from laughable dialogue (My throat is constantly open for the flesh of man.) to an overused and frequently tedious voiceover and a plot that meanders worse than the river itself. It's also poorly directed – the pacing is all over the place and there are long stretches where literally nothing happens.

The acting isn't great either and it's hard to know what's worse – Kiefer's Oirish accent or Kiefer's beard, which he appears to be trying to hide behind. In addition, the film is horribly overscored with irritating and repetitive music.

Worth seeing?
In short, River Queen is something of a disappointment, thanks to poor direction and a derivative, badly written script.

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Content updated: 24/02/2019 09:56

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