River Queen

 
Directed by: Vincent Ward
Written by: Vincent Ward, Toa Fraser
Starring: Samantha Morton, Kiefer Sutherland, Cliff Curtis, Temuera Morrison, Stephen Rea, Anton Lesser
Released: July 6, 2006
Grade: C

Given the high cost of making a film, planning is paramount.  You have to make sure that the lead actors will be available at the time you wish to shoot.  You have to get copyright clearances when using any identifiable product or song.  You have to provide a budget to the investors to show how ever dollar will be spent.  It’s all done so that the development of the film runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Sometimes though, it all goes wrong.  Shot in New Zealand, production was shut down mid-way through the shoot when star Samantha Morton came down with severe influenza.  When the cast and crew returned three months later to resume, they learned that director Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come) had pulled out.  Cinematographer Alun Bollinger (The Frighteners) had to step in to complete the shoot.  Ward was reinstated during the post-production and you’ll see his name in the opening credits as the official director.

There were other problems too.  Inclement weather made the shoot more difficult than expected.  Samantha Morton was rumoured to have acted like a “diva” on set which annoyed fellow actors and Ward himself.  Co-star Cliff Curtis was injured when he crashed his car into a house.  The insurers of the film can’t have been happy.

So has the cast and crew overcome these many obstacles?  The answer is no.  River Queen is a terribly disappointing film.  It looks like it wants to be a grand epic but the weak story generated no emotion whatsoever.  Its characters are dreary and I couldn’t care less what became of them.  The production problems are clearly evident.

To quickly cover the plot, River Queen is set in New Zealand in the 1860s.  Britain is trying to colonize the country but is facing opposition from the Maoris.  Irish woman Sarah O’Brien (Morton) has come to New Zealand with her father to help establish the new British colony.  Whilst there, she falls in love with a Maori local and gives birth to a son.  As tensions escalate between the British and the Maoris, Sarah’s son is kidnapped by his paternal grandfather so that he can be raised as a traditional Maori.  Sarah then begins an agonisingly long search to find and reclaim her only son.

At the film’s New Zealand premiere in January 2006, Vincent Ward said of the film “you'll either love it or you'll hate it.”  I've got my answer.