CYAN PICTURES is distributing the film and a couple of weeks ago asked me to write a review prior to the film's release on July 27th. When I agreed to do so, I was totally unfamiliar with the movie, but have watched it three times now. I'm no professional movie critic, but I enjoy that medium and certainly have opinions about the craft, so I am happy to share my observations for whatever they are worth.
The story is about an elderly Fijian woman, Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), who lives in Mt. Roskill, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand, with one of her grandsons, Irasmus (Rene Naufahu), and her grand daughter, and single mom, Charlene (Mia Blake). One morning she awakes from a dream and announces that she wants to convene all of her grandchildren that day for a big party at which she will announce her successor - her "number two" - and tells Irasmus and Charlene to make it so. No small task as there are five grand kids to round up. Plus there are two sons and a daughter who don't get along but are too curious to stay away in spite of their mother's wishes.
I'll let you get to know the rest of the characters as you watch the film. There are a lot of characters (a family full) and it is amazing how well we get to know each of them in the space of 94 minutes. The very talented cast put in great performances. Taungaroa Emile (who played Boogie in Once Were Warriors and Willie in Whale Rider) was outstanding as grandson "Soul". Very skillful writing and directing on Toa Fraser's part, and brilliant cinematography by veteran Leon Narbey made all the disparate elements fit seamlessly together. It is rather amazing how chaos is brought to order in this film.
As much tension as there is, there is also plenty of humor to break it up. A choice scene pokes fun at "Lord of Rings" fans. One of the sons, Percy, is a tour guide and after pointing out and naming the mountain peaks around Auckland, a German tourist asks with a puzzled expression, "But where is it? Where is Mount Doom?" Percy replies "I don't know, it's over in Hamilton I think."
Another source of both tension and humor is Nanna Maria's wish to have a pig killed for the feast. Tradition clashes with the modern cultural views of such things shared by some of the grand kids - they eat meat, but don't want to have anything to do with killing the pig. It makes for some great lines, particularly from granddaughter Hibiscus (Miriama McDowell).
Weaving it all together is Nanna Maria's strength of character and the love that binds families together even in the face of culture clashes, changing traditions, long standing feuds, and sibling rivalries. So who will Nanna Maria name her number two? That also is a surprise.
Naming Number Two is a very well crafted film, full of unexpected turns that entertain, enlighten, and warm your heart. Rated PG, it's great family summer entertainment. Don't miss it.