×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Shopping’

A rarely explored sociopolitical context that bristles with racial tension lends raw vitality to coming-of-ager “Shopping,” a rough-hewn but confident first feature from New Zealand duo Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland. Following a mixed-race teenager as he grapples with his cultural identity (alongside the requisite father issues), this heartfelt pic betrays the helmers’ award-winning background in shorts: Atmosphere is painted with economical, sometimes discomfiting specificity, but an overly terse approach to characterization renders a simple narrative slightly abstruse. Slots in the Sundance competish and Berlin’s Generation sidebar should see “Shopping” ring up further festival dates and select arthouse appointments.

The indigenous Polynesian culture of New Zealand has been the subject of films like Lee Tamahori’s “Once Were Warriors” (1994) and Niki Caro’s “Whale Rider” (2002), and while Albiston and Sutherland’s modest, thoughtful effort has more in common with Tamahori’s film, it doesn’t quite stand up to that pic’s brute power, featuring a slightly more ambivalent study of a disenfranchised people’s bruised pride.

A newsreel prologue lays out New Zealand’s complicated history with Polynesian immigrants, who found key rights revoked as the country’s economy struggled in the 1970s. Accordingly, the 1981-set story offers its young protagonist a choice between hedonistic integration with whites and burdensome loyalty to his half-Samoan heritage, but neither option offers much of a future. Shorn of its racial textures, the 1981-set film is perhaps most reminiscent of Justin Kurzel’s recent, rather more severe debut feature “The Snowtown Murders” in its depiction of festering poverty and barely latent violence in a remote Antipodean community.

Willie (first-time actor Kevin Paulo) lives with his abusive white father Terry (Alistair Browning) and his cowed, barely present Samoan mother (Maureen Fepuleai) in a sleepy coastal village north of Wellington. With neither parent fit for the job of bringing up children — Terry is particularly fond of goading his kids about the social drawbacks of their skin color — Willie has more or less taken on the task of raising his younger brother Solomon (Julian Dennison, another novice), a quiet, intelligent boy given to fanciful yarn-spinning.

Willie balances this responsibility with an uninspiring job at the local supermarket, which is where he first encounters Bennie (Jacek Koman), a charismatic professional thief. Bennie, unlike any adult previously, takes an interest in the emotionally susceptible kid. It’s not long before Willie is welcomed into Bennie’s band of rogues, and making shy advances on Bennie’s snappy teenage daughter Nicki (Laura Peterson), though when he encounters abuse and prejudice in this new family too, he’s faced with a dangerous decision between two unsuitable father figures.

The setup is the stuff of classic family melodrama, but Albiston and Sutherland pursue fly-on-the-wall authenticity at every turn, abetted by Grayson Gilmour’s unobtrusive acoustic score and, more strikingly, the grainy finish and saturated shadows of Ginny Loane’s deliberately unmoored lensing.

This impressive grit occasionally comes at the expense of detailed character motivation — which, combined with the thick local accents, arguably makes this uninviting world appear a bit more alien than it should for outside auds. Still, there’s an engaging emotional immediacy in the performances of the two young stars: For all the fraught father-son dynamics on display, the film operates most movingly as a fraternal love story.

Shopping

(New Zealand) 

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Generation), Feb. 10, 2013. (Also in Sundance Film Festival.) Running time: 98 MIN.

A Warp Films Australia production, in association with New Zealand Film Commission, Fulcrum Media Finance. (International sales: NZ Film, Wellington.) Produced by Sarah Shaw, Anna McLeish.

Directed, written by Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland. Camera (color), Ginny Loane; editor, Annie Collins; music, Grayson Gilmour; production designer, Josh O’Neill; art director, Wayde Beckman; costume designer, Lucy McLay; sound (Dolby Digital), Ken Saville; supervising sound editors, Mike Hopkins, John McKay; re-recording mixers, Tim Chaproniere, Pete Smith; stunt coordinator, Rodney Cook; line producer, Georgina Allison Conder; assistant director, Joe Nolan; second unit director, Liam Bachler; second united camera, Nick Hutchinson; casting, Mark Albiston, Louis Sutherland.

With: Kevin Paulo, Julian Dennison, Alistair Browning, Jacek Koman, Maureen Fepuleai, Laura Peterson, Byron Coll, Matthias Luafutu, Gavin Rutherford, Richard Whiteside, Adam Hendry, Aaron McGregor, Denise O’Connell, Ralph Johnson, Renee Sheridan, Hadleigh Walker, Richard Chapman, Dra McKay, Edward Campbell, Jerome Leota, Lili Mataia.

Film Review: 'Shopping'

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content