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Read: Bellbird is a kiwi film with real heart

As a city dweller, I have often fallen into the trap of assuming that rural folk and farmers in particular are pretty stoic and not given to expressing vulnerability. I know it’s a stereotype and as such not a good one to hold, but I suspect for some, and in particular some kiwi males it’s not far from the truth.

In the film Bellbird we are presented with just such a man. He’s a farmer called Ross (Marshall Napier) who lives in the far north of New Zealand and lives with his wife Beth (Annie Whittle). He doesn’t seem to get on with anyone, especially his son Bruce (Cohen Holloway), and treats the entire community around him with contempt. 

When a sudden event turns his world upside down, we catch glimpses of the passion and the vulnerability trapped within. Marshall Napier does a remarkable job creating Ross. His ability to raise an eyebrow,  curl a lip slightly or even give the smallest hint of a tear in his eye reveals so much more than his clipped and gruff verbal responses. 

As his son, Cohen Holloway creates the perfect foil to Ross. Desperate to please and at the same time warm and friendly, he too struggles with how to express himself. The two actors manage to create a believable father son dynamic with its tensions and unspoken secrets.

The other cast members fit seamlessly into this film. Rachel House weaves her usual magical charisma in to the character of Connie. Kahukura Retimana (Marley) provides a great contrast to Ross and shows a natural charm and a flair for gentle comedy. 

But it is Stephen Tamarapa (Clem) who provides the both the biggest laughs and easily the most devastatingly funny line in the presence of a cow. I won’t tell you what he says,, but it is truly magnificent. 

Director Hamish Bennett has managed to create a beautiful story that unfolds slowly and naturally. The characters are played so well and they invite us to care for them. Best of all, Bellbird shows us the power of love and the healing power of grief.  


In New Zealand Cinemas 7th November 2019


Starring:   Marshall Napier, Annie Whittle, Cohen Holloway, Rachel House 

Director:  Hamish Bannett


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