It would be incredibly easy – and unfair – to define Healing by what it is not. What it is, is a thoughtful, visually impressive, heart-warming tale. With his third feature film, and the third to star Hugo Weaving, Craig Monahan has explored the reflections and contrasts between some of the world’s most beautiful birds and some of humanity’s biggest pariahs.
Based on real events, in a minimum security prison that is more bush retreat than big house, an aviary is built to take the overflow from a local bird sanctuary that nurtures injured raptors. Specifically, wedge-tailed eagles and owls. Don Huny, Xavier Samuels and Mark Leonard Winter are the three inmates tasked with working with and then releasing the birds. Weaving exudes gravitas as the guard who oversees them.
The metaphor drawn between wild birds who mustn’t be caged too long lest they lose their ability to live in the wild and those who look after them in a pre-release facility is no less poetic for its lack of subtlety.
The performances by all are excellent, particularly Winter and an acerbic Tony Martin as another of the guards. The real stars are the birds however, and the glorious second unit footage of their flight and behaviour.
Healing is not a prison film; there are no shivs or beatings. It is not a bleak rumination on the imprisoned spirit. And it is not given extra credit for being an Australian film as it is dissimilar to any in recent memory. It is an inspiring, intelligent and soaringly gorgeous feel-good movie that will reward all who see it on the big screen.