DIRECTOR: hamish bennett (debut)
STARRING: marshall napier, cohen holloway, rachel house, and annie whittle
REVIEWER: nick tonkin
In the wake of the loss of his beloved wife, a rural community rallies around a farmer to help him deal with his grief.
Bellbird, the debut feature by writer/director Hamish Bennett set in small town New Zealand, follows the laconic farmer Ross in the period following the sudden and tragic death of his affable and gregarious wife Beth. Her absence leaves him lost, however his son Bruce and members of the community come forward to help on the farm and share in his grief.
Taking its name from a song that Beth was learning to perform with her choir, Bellbird is a touching film that explores how Ross and Bruce attempt to deal with the normality that follows Beth’s death. Both quiet men, they find it hard to communicate their struggles with one another - instead disguising them with the getting on of running the family farm. Bruce explains at one point that from when he was young, Beth talked enough for all three of them so Ross and Bruce left her to it. They express their feelings to each other through small actions - such as how Bruce learns to make the chocolate fudge slice his mum used to make and Ross taking the time to teach Bruce some farming basics.
Backed by a strong supporting cast in Rachel House (Topaz from Thor: Ragnarok a.k.a the melt stick lady), Steven Tamarapa and newcomer Kahukura Reitimana as keen young aspiring farmhand Marley whose exuberance and congenial nature find a soft spot in Ross, Bellbird has its share of interesting characters who all aid in filling the void left behind in Ross’ life.
Bellbird presents a small town life that is easily recognizable as quintessentially Kiwi, with characters that one can identify and sympathize with - all while showing that growth can come from loss, especially with the help of a community that cares.