Whale Rider - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Whale Rider Reviews

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July 9, 2016
A superb little movie that I've long enjoyed. Whale Rider is set in a deprived Maori community where the village elder is struggling to maintain traditional custom with modern life. He and his wife are left to raise their granddaughter after her mother and twin die at birth and her grief stricken father leaves to seek his fortune elsewhere. The girl, Pai, brilliantly bought to the screen by Keisha Castle-Hughes, wants to make her grandfather proud but he feels constrained by tradition which dictates that the mantle of village leader can only be passed on to a male heir. The performance by Castle-Hughes is assured and touching. This is exemplified by a tear-jerking scene in which Pai recites a speech she has prepared for her absent grandfather to a room of villagers at a school concert. Whale Rider is a marvellously observed, small tale in which director/writer Niki Caro manages to tackle big issues without bashing you over the head with them. This is a genuinely good "family" movie which is does not sugar coat issues but manages to deliver a satisfying and upbeat ending and makes a refreshing change from slushy, bigger budget coming of age movies.
½ April 14, 2016
Three years later, I am still scarred from this abysmal excuse for a film. Maybe it would have been better if I had not been forced to do a film analysis of it but the horror of Grade 9 English class will always remain.
April 4, 2016
Rating: 82%
Though it may come across as odd to some viewers, Whale Rider is a promising and entertaining drama with a talented cast and gripping plot.
February 24, 2016
heard this was way good?
November 3, 2015
The film is so realistically filmed that touches the line between documetary and fiction film. The story although is really engaging and the young protagonist is a revelation.
June 16, 2015
Touching coming of age movie that cheer out loud good
½ June 14, 2015
Good tale of conflict between traditions and the new era. Not the best, but has a great performance from the lead to make it worth the watch.
May 12, 2015
Beautiful cinematography and music but a boring and lame movie attached to it. Have no idea how the lead earned a nomination for this honestly
½ March 21, 2015
One of the most enchanting and lyrical children's movies that can rank with classics like "National Velvet," "The Black Stallion," and "E.T." Thirteen year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes is extraordinarily affecting as a young Maori girl, who dreams of becoming the chief of the local tribe against the wishes of her stern grandfather (Rawiri Paratene), a man who believes in the strict adherence to ancient legend that only a male can assume leadership and ride the whale. Although the outcome is predictable, the simplicity and emotional resonance of the material become mythological. A sequence where Castle-Hughes recites a Maori chant at a school concert, amid her grandfather's absence, is incredibly touching. Cliff Curtis, a versatile actor who can convincingly play a multitude of nationalities, is the girl's father. Written and directed by Niki Caro. Based on the book by Witi Ihimaera. Cinematography by Leon Narbey, Music is by Lisa Gerrard. Filmed on the beautiful, windy New Zealand coast of North Island.
½ March 6, 2015
An odd movie, high with family emotions and tinged with the always good antipodean humour, this gives an insight into the beliefs of one of the native clans of New Zealand, which, to be frank, is quite bizarre, but surely unique.
February 26, 2015
A tale of freedom for girls!
February 5, 2015
What are your thoughts on the movie? it has significant meaning to change.
What were the main ideas of the movie? To accept new ideas
How did the movie make you feel and what did it make you think about as you watched? Sad and overjoyed with the different changes
What were your final thoughts about the movie and overall comments on the big ideas and plot? I thought that it was great how the grandfather learned to accept his granddaughter
What do you think the overall point the makers of the movie were trying to make? That as time goes on we have to accept that things will not always be the same and that change will happen
Did you enjoy the movie? Yes I thought that the movie was a really go movie and had really good meaning to it.
January 7, 2015
very inspiring and beautiful
½ January 1, 2015
Slightly disappointing since I had really high hopes for this, but this is still a great film with plenty of excellent acting and a complicated love relationships. i hope the great Japanese animator Miyazaki had the chance to view this... this plays out like a real action version of his work, and i mean it in a good way: heroine, people's relationships with nature, a certain innocence.. you can find it all in Whale Rider.

Keisha Castle-Hughes is absolutely mesmerizing. She breaks your heart with one look and lifts your spirit the next. Perhaps the new Natalie Portman with more sorrow. Such depth of emotion at such young age, i guess we will c if that develops into something great.
½ December 5, 2014
Whale Rider is a film of beauty and emotion that really works well visually wise
Super Reviewer
September 30, 2014
The indie film Whale Rider is an engrossing character drama with an inspirational message. The story follows a 12-year-old Maori girl named Paikea Apirana who struggles to earn her grandfather's love and respect, but is neglected and belittled as he seeks to find a new chief to lead the Maori tribe. The relationship between Paikea and her grandfather is exceptionally well-written and feels remarkably real. But a lot of the credit has to go to newcomer Keisha Castle-Hughes, who gives an amazingly heartbreaking performance that's incredibly compelling. Touching and powerful, Whale Rider is extraordinarily well-crafted film.
September 16, 2014
Whale Rider
Plot Summary
The case for Paikia, the main character in Whale Rider was that the mere act of her being born was seen as a disappointment. Paikia survived while her mom and twin brother died during birth. Her grandfather, Paku, was the leader of their tribe and his first son (Paikia's dad) did not want to on the responsibilities of being the leader the tribe, so that would role would have fell to his first born son. Paku wanted nothing to do with Paikia at first; he resented her because she was not the boy. He viewed everything traditionally and in his eyes Paikia could never be the next tribal leader that she was destined to be but she set out to prove him wrong.
In the beginning of the movie, a lady was in the hospital room praying and chanting for the deceased mother who died during childbirth. I felt that she was a shaman performing a death ritual. The family and other community members were also there. Paku also prayed over the deceased baby boy in the same manner. In many Native American religions death is considered to be an important part of spiritual transition. Paikia could also be a shaman, she called out to the ancestors to help her troubled people and all the whales were washed ashore. Paku viewed this as something bad, but maybe it was to show him how strong Paikia really was and the whales were just part of the sacrifice?
Darkness and misfortune came over the tribe because of Paku's inability to accept her as their next leader. In the Maori culture, a woman can't lead her tribe or perform certain sacred rites and rituals. I believe that your fate is chosen the moment you are conceived. It was Paikia's fate to be a leader. The movie showed several metaphoric examples of her strength, courage, intelligence and humility. She was chosen to live, not her brother for this same reason.

World Religion
In Indigenous Religion, not following your God/ Gods can bring you harm and/or misfortune. Her grandfather was thinking about how he was taught and not how things were. It was all right in front of him.
This film helped me to understand the fine line between tradition and evolving into your time. Even though they upheld all that was sacred, the ancient ancestors chose a 12 year old girl to be the next leader of their tribe. Her fate was overlooked but it could not be changed. Paku finally saw this at the end of the movie when Paikia willed the largest whale back into the ocean and Nanny, his wife, gave him his whale tooth back that he threw into the ocean as a test for the first sons 'that could not retrieve it. It was Paikia that found it.
August 15, 2014
Can't imagine why anybody would consider giving less than five stars to this gem. Not as widely seen as it should have been, but as with another New Zealand film, 'Once Were Warriors', if you have seen it, you probably already know it's a masterpiece.
½ July 7, 2014
Bad. Very bad. I do not even understand half of what was going on!
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