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:: Healing

Featuring an ensemble cast of instantly recognisable Australian actors, Healing tells the story of Viktor (Dony Hany), a convicted murderer serving the last 18 months of a long sentence in a minimum security prison in contemporary rural Victoria. Viktor is a quiet man who keeps to himself, isolated amongst his community of fellow prisoners by his fearsome reputation and his migrant past. Estranged from his Iranian community and his only son, he bonds with an injured eagle found on prison grounds and at the recommendation of his case-worker Matt (Hugo Weaving), is placed in charge of the rehabilitation of Yasmine the eagle and other injured birds of prey, in a partner program with Healesville Sanctuary.

The film’s title applies to several stories contained within the narrative. Like the injured birds, there are several characters who in a variety of ways, either atone or recover from past mistakes or heartbreak. The film contains some deeply moving imagery, aided brilliantly by composer David Hirschfelder’s epic percussive soundtrack, with its Middle Eastern and Asian musical motifs, which marry perfectly with cinematographer Andrew Lesnie’s impressive aerial photography of the birds in flight and in closeup, which is every bit as inspired as images seen in wildlife documentaries. Like the rest of Craig Monahan’s script, Healing’s emotive scenes never lapse into the melodramatic, giving a real and dignified clarity to the story. Shot mostly in regional Victoria, around Kyneton and Healesville, the film is inspired by a real life alliance between Prisons Victoria and Healesville Sanctuary.

Healing contains a brilliant and believable cast, with Weaving and Hany at their best and of particular note, Jane Menaleus as the Raptor keeper at Healseville Sanctuary and Mark Leonard Winter as the hapless inmate Shane. Menaleus is so believable in her role that it takes a while to realize that this role is being played by an actor and Winter brings a simultaneous innocence and menace to his character. Viewers may well find Healing to be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying Australian films in quite a while.