Shopping (2013)

16 Dec


Very seldom do I find myself undecided on a film once the credits roll, but Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland’s debut feature Shopping has left me just so. The film itself, it must be said, is a very fine film indeed, but its place in New Zealand’s film cannon is an uncomfortable one for me; it feels like a coat-tail rider.

Shopping is set in the early 80s, in a small coastal town, and focuses on a boy, Willie and his younger brother Solomon…sound familiar? The similarities to Taika Waititi’s Boy don’t end there, common threads of neglect and abuse, poor father/son relations, the lure of older criminal friends, and even fantasy storytelling voice overs by the young cat create a terrible sense of déjà vu. More than anything, the kitschy 80s tones throughout seem borrowed and unnecessary. One might argue that the racial tensions in the film justify the choice of time period, but this theme is only alluded to in passing, appearing more an afterthought than a well developed plot point.

But with all this said, it would be remiss not to talk about how wonderful Shopping is when taken as a stand alone work of art. New comer Kevin Paulo turns in an amazing break out  performance as Willie, a young man torn between his Pakeha and Samoan culture, and struggling with his tumultuous relationship with his father. Paulo’s work is muted, longing and totally engaging; a true rising star. Young Julian Dennison is also talented beyond his years, bringing Solomon to life with utmost authenticity. And much credit must be given to the writer/director duo Albiston and Sutherland. Their story is sweetly sad and told with considered restraint, albeit a few years late. Overall Shopping is a beautiful little film, and well worth watching but not without its flaws.




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