A big-hearted image full of discreet little moments of magic, the New Zealand dramatic comedy Wild hunt is an offbeat charmer. Directed by Taika Waititi (co-director of the mock vampire documentary) What we do in the shadows), it downplays the big laughs from its predecessor, instead focusing on the emotional thrust of a mismatched buddies movie.
Not that none of the central characters would admit something as mellow as an emotional journey. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a struggling orphan raised in hip-hop and rejection. Placed with the last of a series of foster families, this time on a farm far from the city where he presents himself as a gangster, Ricky is reluctant. But her adoptive aunt Bella (Rima Te Wiata) breaks through her defenses with down-to-earth love and affectionate mockery. However, when a tragedy threatens to take his life away that Ricky has fallen in love with, the boy finds himself on the run into the bush with Bella’s grizzled husband Hec (Sam Neill) and a dog named Tupac. Little by little, the two rejected loners who had only Bella in common find a kinship, united against the authorities who track them down.
Waititi has a soft spot for helicopter shots that take in what Ricky describes as New Zealand’s “majestic” countryside. More effective are 360-degree pans, which are an attractive alternative to the standard passage of time editing sequence. But the main asset of the film is an unaffected naturalism, both in the making of the film and in the raw characters that we are looking for.