Film Review: Uproar

Film Review Uproar: Screengrab of Uproar's
FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, shares his thoughts on the latest from New Zealand's Paul Middleditch and Hamish Bennett, Uproar (M).

This complicatedly-credited dramatic/comedic character piece from co-directors Paul Middleditch and Hamish Bennett (who helped write the thing with Sonia Whiteman) would make a star of Māori actor Julian Dennison if he wasn’t one already.

Plucked from semi-obscurity by Taika Waititi for Hunt For The Wilderpeople back in 2016, Dennison went on to Marvel (Deadpool 2) and MonsterVerse (Godzilla Vs. Kong) epics, but is at his best here as 17 year old Josh Waaka, who’s growing up in New Zealand back in 1981 (and it almost looks like it too).

High Schooler Josh lives with his English Mum Shirley (Minnie Driver) and depressed former-local-sports hero brother Jamie (James Rolleston). In the seven years since the death of his Dad, he’s attended the local private school where racist bullies give him Hell, and he’s continually silenced.

When the South African Springboks rugby team arrive, the country is divided between those outraged by allowing them in during the time of Apartheid, and those trying to deal with old cultural and racial divisions in New Zealand itself (and, as Josh observes, those simply just being angry generally). Josh hangs out with Samoan teen Grace (Jada Fa’atui) and finds himself involved when she starts attending protests while, at the same time, he’s encouraged by teacher Brother Madigan (Rhys Darby, of course) to get involved in a lunchtime dramatics group. And Madigan discovers that Josh “isn’t crap” as an actor.

Although a bit plot-heavy, this is so warmly funny and, at times, painfully moving that it really doesn’t matter, and Dennison’s wonderful performance is matched by Driver, Rolleston, Darby (always a delight) and the rest of a large cast. It’s also, quite obviously, exploring serious issues from the past as a means of commenting upon the present, meaning that, yes indeed, this is a movie about right bloody now!

Choice!

3.5 out of 5 STARS

Uproar is in cinemas now

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