Whale Rider (2003)



Critic Consensus: An empowering and uplifting movie, with a wonderful performance by Castle-Hughes.

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On the east coast of New Zealand, the Whangara people believe their presence there dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale. From then on, Whangara chiefs have always been the first-born and male. Many generations later, the contemporary tale revolves around a young mother whose male newborn twin dies in childbirth. Her young husband flees New Zealand in grief, leaving grandparents Koro and Nanny Flowers to raise the sole survivor, a feisty little girl named Pai, who radiates with life and energy. It's no wonder that her grandmother and the entire community love her, but alas, the grandfather she worships is too busy mourning the loss of the baby boy he expected would lead the tribe to better days.
Rating: PG13 (for brief language and a momentary drug reference)
Genre: Drama , Romance
Directed By: Niki Caro
Written By: Niki Caro
In Theaters: limited
Palm Pictures - Official Site


Keisha Castle-Hughes
as Paikea `Pai' Apirana
Vicky Haughton
as Nanny Flowers
Cliff Curtis
as Porourangi
Grant Roa
as Uncle Rawiri
Tahei Simpson
as Miss Parata
Rutene Spooner
as Parekura
John Sumner
as Obstetrician
Sam Woods
as Young Rawiri
Pura Tangira
as Driver
Heemi Taumaunu
as Fisherman
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Critic Reviews for Whale Rider

All Critics (146) | Top Critics (39)

Newcomer Castle-Hughes' unaffected, confident turn makes it credible our heroine might retain her determination and self-worth despite serial setbacks.

Full Review… | July 21, 2008
Top Critic

The filmmaker knows how to seduce an audience without making it feel had. When a movie's this likable, it would take a very tough crowd not to be pleased.

Full Review… | October 31, 2007
Top Critic

Niki Caro roots her characters in a landscape equal parts mundane and boundless, incorporates tantalising sea photography and Lisa's Gerrard's ambient soundtrack, and lifts off into a sublime, Elysian ending.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The most effective and moving female empowerment movie in awhile.

Full Review… | July 2, 2003
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

[The story] is so simple that the audience gets ahead of it from the beginning.

Full Review… | June 27, 2003
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

The film is closer to a feminist tract. And, like all propaganda, it wants to do all of your thinking for you.

June 27, 2003
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

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