Zoe Styles 2018

Hunt For The Wilderpeople - Essay

It was in 2016 that kiwi director Taika Waititi released his award-wining film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. This film follows the story of misfit, orphan child called Ricky Baker. Ricky’s new, loving foster aunt suddenly passes away in the beginning of the story, leaving him alone with his distant, unwelcoming Uncle Hector, or Hec. This unlikely duo find themselves on the run in the vast New Zealand wild - evading child services, the government, and the law. They are forced to work together to survive – and, despite their differences, form an unlikely bond in this kiwi adventure.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople portrays the idea that strength can come through sharing our vulnerabilities throughout the film in many different scenarios. Waititi illustrates the idea of vulnerabilities or troubles can cause people to open up, and gain strength through deeper relationships. This is demonstrated in the film - in the scene that involves Ricky Baker and Bella, when Ricky explains to Bella how he uses Haikus to help work through his feelings in a positive way. Another element to this film that exhibits this message is how the characters rely on each other to overcome their vulnerabilities. This is showcased when Hec relied on Ricky for emotional support when his wife died, as-well as the support Hec required from Ricky when he fractured his foot. The final point that we can extract from the movie that supports this statement is the point that people develop strength through the compassion of others, as the characters taught each other to look at things differently.

                Waititi shapes the idea that vulnerabilities can cause people to open up, and gain strength through deeper relationships via the scene in which Ricky explains to Bella what Haikus are and what they are. In this scene, Ricky explains to Bella why he writes haikus and how they help him. ‘This counsellor lady made me do em, when I got in trouble.’ which is closely followed up by ‘They help me express my feelings.’ This small excerpt of dialogue from this scene helps to depict an otherwise less open individual, sharing is past and issues that he has faced. Haikus are a reoccurring element in this film that help the viewer to understand how much Ricky has been educated in emotional management, implying that he has many emotional issues to deal with through his past. In this scene, Bella learns this and as result, has a better understanding of Ricky – meaning she feels closer to him, and Ricky sharing this information indicates a level of trust Ricky has placed in Bella. Ricky sharing this information about his troubled past, one of his vulnerabilities, has strengthened the bond between him and Bella, and features that one of the strengths we can draw from sharing our vulnerabilities is enhanced, deeper, and more meaningful relationships.

                This film heavily incorporates the point of characters relying on each other to overcome their vulnerabilities, both in a more obvious physical manner and an emotional sense. Two of the more prominent examples of this is when Hector, or Hec, fractures his foot and relies on Ricky for the physical support in order for it to heal. Another piece of evidence that is less centre-stage is Hec’s reliance on Ricky to help him through the emotional trauma of his wife suddenly and unexpectedly passing away, by unknown means. We can see in the scene in which Ricky un-intentionally finds Hec moaning and crying over Bella’s recently deceased body, the emotional significance of Hec’s relationship wife Bella is represented. Hec is very obvious and forthright in his feelings towards to Ricky, being both unwelcoming and hostile at the beginning of the story. This is a significant part of Hec - he is closed off, which is established in his behaviour and clothing choice. Being a man of his generation, at 62, he was raised in a less open-minded world and was deeply influenced from a young age to be masculine, which traditionally taught men to shut down thoughts and feelings. Flaunting emotion and being open about these problems are not in his nature, and as the result makes opening up a struggle for Hec. However, when he begins to relax more and allow himself to rely on Ricky, Ricky helps Hec to overcome his vulnerabilities. These elements of Hunt for the Wilderpeople indicates that there are strengths to be discovered when relying on one another, and this allows each character to feel more open and likely to share their vulnerabilities.

                The final element in this film is the way Waititi expresses the way people develop strength through their compassion for others, and how the characters teach each other to look at situations differently. This is highlighted in two major points throughout the film - The death of Amber (Ricky’s friend), and the reading of the poem about Hec. Both of these examples follow the same principle – that being able to see the world through another’s eyes and develop compassion – but from two different characters. In the scene in which Ricky divulges the story of his friend Amber and how she died from the poor inner workings of the Government, Law, and child services, we as the audience and Hec begin to understand why Ricky is so eager to stay with Hec and away from Paula, the head of child services. We can see throughout the film that the thought or concept of going back, pains him deeply, and emotive dialogue used throughout this scene includes ‘she started getting in trouble, telling stories about the dad, and then one day she was just…dead.’ ‘What do you mean dead, how?’ ‘Don’t know, no-one told me.’. The other part to this film in which these ideas are present is when Ricky reads his Haiku poem about Hec out-loud to him. Throughout the film, Hec has given the impression that he is not able to handle emotional situations, which relates back to his old fashioned views of masculinity as discussed earlier. As a result, Hec acts with hostility towards emotional moments and ideas. Ricky knows this, and when Hec asks him to read his poem aloud, Ricky replies with ‘nah it’s just a personal one’, making it obvious to the audience that he doesn’t want to share these vulnerabilities. However, after Ricky has read out his Haiku about him and Hec, he follows it up with ‘see, told you it was dumb’, which further emphasizes the point of Ricky trying to cover up and excuse himself for sharing his feelings, which he sees as a vulnerability. However, Hec responds with ‘No, no, it’s just that…that’s the first time I heard my name in a poem – I liked it.’. This is a key point in the film and story – this is Hec opening up for the first time, allowing himself to show Ricky how he’s feeling. This time, Ricky is seeing the world through Hec’s eyes, and developing compassion for the character as he is, he begins to understand how secluded he has been all of his life. Hec stating that he has never heard his name in a poem before is a step forward, as he usually approaches topics related to literature in a hostile and negative way as he can’t read. Ricky sharing this experience, one of his vulnerabilities, has allowed Hec to see why he doesn’t want to go back to child welfare, and he has developed compassion for the boy. Hec exposing to Ricky how he feels about the poem is evidence of Hec letting his guard down, and allowing Ricky to feel compassion for the character and how isolated he is. The characters sharing their vulnerabilities allows them to develop strength through the compassion for each other.

The story that follows a troubled boy and a isolated man through the New Zealand bushland has many key points that exhibit the statement ‘How does Hunt for the Wilderpeople portray the idea that strength can come through sharing our vulnerabilities?’. Waititi accomplishes this through unpacking vulnerabilities or troubles can cause people to open up, and gain strength through deeper relationships, as well as through relying on each other to overcome our vulnerabilities, and that people develop strength through the compassion for others, and that they teach each other to look at things differently.