8:00 PM, 16th September, 2006
Set in 1868 in colonial New Zealand, Sarah OBrien is an Irish settler who works as a medic. She has given birth to a half-caste son whom she named Boy and is raising him on her own after the Maori father has died. Then Boy is abruptly abducted by his Maori grandfather, Old Rangi. The distraught Sarah spends the next seven years searching for Boy. When she finally meets Boy again, he has grown up among the Maori ways and is hostile to the European advance. As Sarah tries to find a way between both cultures, both she and Boy become essential figures in the coming war between the two sides. I've always thought that New Zealander Vincent Ward is one of the great, underrated directors in the world. Even though most of his films get glowing reviews, Ward lacks much of a name outside New Zealand and gets far too few opportunities to make films. This film experienced significant problems behind the scenes including the firing and re-hiring of Ward as director. But, on screen, River Queen has stunning scenery, great acting, an interesting story, and music that was a hauntingly beautiful match. While the story is a little slow, it all does start to come together in about the last third and knits together rather nicely.
10:52 PM, 16th September, 2006
Tristan & Isolde takes place around the year 600. The Roman occupiers have withdrawn, leaving a disorganised band of English warlords feuding among themselves while King Donnchadh of the Celts (OHara) rules England from Ireland. When Tristan (Franco) leads King Marke's (Sewell) troops in setting a successful trap for Donnchadh's overconfident raiders, he is poisoned and falls into a coma resembling death. Good thing the early Brits don't believe in burial: they put Tristan's body on a boat, push it out to sea and, a few days later, it washes ashore in Ireland to be found by the beautiful Isolde (Myles), daughter of Donnchadh. The two fall in love as Isolde, going by the name of Bragnae, nurses Tristan back to health. After he returns to England, Isolde's true identity still unknown to him, Tristan, as King Marke's champion, wins a competition and gains the hand of Isolde for the King[H4]. Putting duty and loyalty before their personal desires, and to save the bloodshed of thousands, they agree to hide their love.Tears, they say, are good for the soul, and few will leave Tristan & Isolde with dry eyes. It is an affecting motion picture with enough romance to satisfy those who appreciate that genre, and enough swordplay and battle scenes to keep action-lovers from becoming restless. The only downside is that I empathised more with Rufus Sewell's tough-in-battle but insecure-in-love King, than with Tristan. I suspect the filmmakers intended otherwise, although I did still cry.