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Rotten Bananas, Juniper 

Himika Akram reporter  

Matthew J. Saville’s directorial debut in feature film category was “Juniper,” a New Zealand family drama which was set in the backdrop of 1992. According to Saville, the story was inspired by his own grandmother and his childhood experiences. 

On the one side, we see a self-destructive, unruly teenager Sam, kicked out of his boarding school, who is still coping with the grief of her mother’s death, who died several months ago. On the other side, there is this salty, stubborn, demanding, gin-addicted grandmom Ruth, who comes along with her nurse Sarah, all her way from England with her broken leg, to her son Robert’s place in New Zealand.  She never met Sam before, and she had quite an exciting career of a war photographer, when she was young.  The ulterior motive of Robert, to bring her mom from England to New Zealand was, he had a hope that his mom might tune his unruly, teenage son up. 

When Sam got to know that he has to leave his mom’s r0om (that is the room where he was staying) for his grandmom, he not only was appalled at the idea, also showed absolutely no interest in being her part time caretaker and putting up with her tantrums.  

In the meantime, Robert flew off to London, to take care of Ruth’s finances, leaving the two behind. Sarah fails in her attempt to convert Ruth to religion, who chases him off with a bribe, or when Sam mixes water in her gin, she throws a tantrum by bouncing the glass off his head. But since at that home, they have nothing much to do, gradually that loneliness brought them together. They discovered, even though initially they hated each other’s company; they have quite a few similarities. One is heading towards mortality, another is young, yet still struggling to move ahead in his life, the two extremes morphed them into a bond of respect, affection, and love for each other. 

Such stories are nothing new, where the protagonists’ first encounter started with hatred or sheer dislike of each other, but gradually they found solace into each other or eventually became very good friends and so on. I would not say, story-wise it was very unique. But it was the dialogue between Ruth and Sam, which were absolutely brilliant. There initial interaction had some dark humor, but director did not go overboard with it, because his focus was on the tragedy which drifted the family members apart from each other. Like the other families, the usual family-bonding was missing among them. That is the reason the slightest of a kind gesture in their lives makes a big impact in this movie. This is a tale of mistakes, untold words, failed relationships, and regrets. The movie, even though we can guess where it is going to be, was crafted aesthetically, which leaves a deep impact on our hearts.  

Charlotte Rampling was impeccable in her screen presence. There is nothing left to say about her acting prowess. Handsome, athletic face George Ferrier seemed extremely promising and a perfect match to his Oscar nominee counterpart Charlotte. Marty Williams’ cinematography to capture the picturesque beauty of New Zealand was brilliant. Even though the movie got released in New Zealand in August 2021; but in the USA this movie got released on 24th February 2023. 

With the perfect encapsulation of life, this is certainly a movie of depth, and I would say, underrated. My personal rating of this movie would be 7/10. 

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