One Thousand Ropes

One Thousand Ropes

(2016)

Bound by the past. Released by forgiveness.

A father reconnects with his estranged teenage daughter in this drama from Samoan New Zealand writer-director Tusi Tamasese (The Orator). Set in Wellington, New Zealand.... More

"An old man buries a placenta underneath a lemon tree. Later, we see his hand gently rolling a lemon back and forth on a table, as if he were massaging it. Besides his job at the bakery Maea also works as a traditional birth attendant, a task that requires him to competently massage the bellies of pregnant women. At home tell-tale pale stains on the wall bear witness to pictures that have been removed – Maea has distanced himself from his family following a traumatic and violent episode.

"But then one day his daughter Ilisa appears at his door. She is pregnant, and has also been physically abused by her boyfriend. What’s more, the spirit of a woman who frequently appears to be sitting in the corner of his living room suddenly decides not to want to go back to her grave in the cemetery. Unfolding in impressive, mythical images of compelling concentration, Tamasese tells a story about a man trying to face his past, his daughter and his inner 'demons'." (Berlin International Film Festival)Hide

Flicks Review

Pixar legend Andrew Stanton did a TED talk about how to tell a great story. In it, he shared this piece of sage advice – don’t give them ‘4’; give them ‘2 + 2’. It essentially means that while you can directly tell an audience your message, it’s far more powerful if you make them come to that conclusion themselves. With One Thousand Ropes, Tusi Tamasese pulls off that kind of smart storytelling, and that’s what ultimately makes it one of the most intelligent films to come out of New Zealand and Samoa.... More

The plot, best experienced with little knowledge of what to expect, centres on a Samoan father, Maea, living in Wellington and whose past looms over the entire film. His behaviour reveals the shards of his former self, but those same shards pierce the man he's trying to be. It’s a role that requires a hardened shell that can let cracks of vulnerability shine, and somehow, Uelese Petaia threads the eye of that performance needle with superb ease.

Playing Maea's daughter is Frankie Adams (The Expanse, Shortland Street), who gives a valiantly respectful performance as a pregnant teenage victim of spousal abuse. It's a role that could have been dangerously two-dimensional, but Adams and Tamasese add plenty to the father-daughter relationship that avoids turning abuse into a cheap plot device.

There's also a ghost, but it's not like anything you've likely to have seen on film. (It's less like The Grudge and more like The Sulk.)

This paranormal side of One Thousand Ropes is one of many Samoan cultural touchstones that Tamasese shows us. Just like his feature debut The Orator, he casts a critical eye over the traditions and attitudes that fuel certain toxic behaviours - the type Maea is trying to escape from.

Unlike The Orator, however, the slow pace works much more in favour of One Thousand Ropes. Maea's personal battle brews a steady sort of tension that cannot be rushed, and all the visual details deserve their time to soak into your mind. It's up to the audience to find the riches that lie waiting in this unique, absorbing experience. Tamasese trusts you to do that.Hide


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  • It is his [Petaia's] unshowy performance and quiet demeanour that makes his character's "transition" from a violent past all the more powerful. Full Review

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