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Where is Modern Life Leading Us????

Here is a film review I wrote published recently in Taranaki Daily News. It is a bit random but there is a stark comparison between the fast shallow way of life – Hollywood Blockbuster, and the more thoughtful, sustainable approach – local doco…

Anyway have a read and see what you think….

I could actually see the cows this morning as I rounded them up for early milking, the end of daylight savings another sign that this season is drawing to a close. I don’t like to whinge because I do like daylight saving but I also dislike blundering around in the dark, which is what I have been doing every morning since the end of September. But it has also been nice ending the day with enough light for a barbeque on the deck and you can’t have it both ways.

Another sign that the end of the season is nigh is a bit of extra energy to be bothered doing something after work for a change, so when Danni suggested she and I go to the pictures the other night I jumped at the chance. 

I’d seen the trailers for the romantic comedy Bountyhunter and it looked quite entertaining.  The gist of the story seemed to be Jennifer Anniston getting chased around by Gerard Butler who was the Bounty hunter but also her ex-husband. When I see it written down like that, I now question why I ever thought it would be good but I got caught up in the hype. It was Tuesday night, so the tickets were cheap, but we fell into the trap of going along hungry and pigged out a bit at the Candy Bar.  So much for the $75 grocery budget that week – should extortionate pop-corn prices be part and parcel of going to the cinema? Mind you no one forced us to buy it.

Laden with ice cream, popcorn and drinks and with the EFT POS card screaming for mercy we settled in and waited to be entertained.  One hundred and ten minutes later I was still waiting. All the good bits were in the trailer – there were no more good bits to this movie. It was a great movie trailer – end of story. I left the theatre feeling ripped off.  Bountyhunter appeared to have it all, big name stars, action, comedy, stunts but at the end of the day it was violent, sexist, nonsensical, had no continuity and was all 100% hype – 0% delivery.

Jenifer Annistons character, whose name I have forgotten, spent the whole movie looking great in incredibly short, tight skirts and running away from Gerard (man-boobs) Butler, whose name was Milo (which I only remembered because it was the same name as the chocolatey breakfast drink.) If only Jennifer had taken her ridiculously high heels off, then Milo would not have been able to catch her and put her in the boot of his car but alas, she kept her stilettos on and he captured her easily every time. Apart from a few baddies chasing them and Jennifer eventually blowing one of their heads off with an AK47, I don’t think anything else much really happened in this movie. On the way home I remarked – ‘That’s the last time I’m going to the pictures!’

To get another perspective on the movie, I just asked Danni (17) – ‘What did you think of Bountyhunter?’ Her succinct review, ‘Bullshit!’ That girl does not mince her words.

True to form I went back to the pictures less than a week later, this time to the Arthouse Cinema, where you can sit in a bean bag and watch the movie – how cool is that? Prompted by a positive preview in the Daily News, I took both the girls to see This Way of Life, a documentary style film shot on the East Coast of New Zealand over a four year period. Unlike the Bountyhunter this unpretentious Kiwi film delivered on so many levels and still has me thinking about it days afterwards, as amazing, enriching and memorable as Hollywoods Bountyhunter was horrible and forgettable.

 This Way of Life follows the mixed fortunes of the Karena family, Dad Peter, Mum Colleen and six kids whose names I could remember, Llewelyn, Aurora, Malachai, Elias, Corban and Salem Ottley-Karena.  Narrated by an 11 year old child (Llewelyn), This Way of Life is allowed to unfold with such a quiet subtlety that the whole impact of the story didn’t fully hit me until days afterwards.

This Way of Life has had such a profound effect on me that it is actually a struggle to find words that do the film justice. The storyline follows the Karena family in the Hawkes Bay where they live a natural life style which contrasts sharply to what most people would call ‘normal or modern.’  When asked what he does for a living, long haired Peter Karena replies, ‘I live for a living.’ But to make money he elucidates that he will do ‘anything that doesn’t compromise my integrity.’ In the duration of the film we see the Karena’s lose their house in a suspicious blaze, we learn about the tension that exists between Peter and his step-father, we see them living rough, Mum, Dad and all the kids, including a new born baby, in a caravan and later on, a shed. We feel their happiness as they revel in the freedom offered by their lifestyle, we marvel as little kids race around rivers, beaches and the country side on huge wild horses, we see the sorrow on the lines on her face as Colleen talks about the loss of her unborn child, allowing just two silent tears to fall and we hang onto Peters every word as he articulates quietly (from the branch of a tree) about his love and respect for God, family and nature. This Way of Life drew me in and consumed me in an unprecedented way. I resented the intermission because it intruded on the short time I got to spend with the Karena family. Days afterwards and I am still thinking about the layers of stories contained in the glimpse of the life I saw.

Filmed on a zero budget This Way of Life made me think about what is real and what is not, what is valuable and what is worthless.  In stark contrast to the insultingly loud, million dollar, star studded, box office, Hollywood forgettable disappointments, this New Zealand film rises above the rest as an understated triumph. If you get an opportunity to see This Way of Life, make sure you go… then you will see what I mean.


  1. I like your review and they way you write,
    I have seen the Bounty hunter too, but i knew it was going to be rubbish, thats why i watched it, because i was hungover and didn’t want to think…
    Jennifer Aniston has not been in anything good for over 10 years and probably nver will be again!!

  2. Lyn, I think Daylight Savings needs fixing — I thought a lot about the farmers because I didn’t even go out for a walk in the morning it was so dark.

    And then there was ‘This Way of Life’. Some of the scenes in the film were so beautiful they seemed unreal. I got so hooked into the Karena family story that days afterward, while replaying the gorgeous photography in my head, other parts of my brain were worrying about the kids’ future, and their reading skills, and how they would cope in a world where you just can’t jump on a horse and ride off down the beach when things aren’t going well. Ehe film was a good wake-up call for me and maybe others.

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