You can take the wannabe gangsta out of the city, but taking the gangsta out of his sweet rebel soul is another thing entirely. Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a mound of urban teenage misery whose last stop before juvie is a tumbledown farm at the edge of the New Zealand wilderness. Bella (Rima Te Wiata) is his saintly new foster mom, an unstoppable wellspring of love who is unfazed by his out-of-shape attempts to run away. And Hector (a bushy-bearded, teddy bear-lovable Sam Neill) is his laconic, leery “uncle,” a man who has called bullshit on most of the world, excepting, of course, his wife. It isn’t long before the two men find themselves, through circumstances both lamentable and ludicrous, in the bush and on the run. Director Taika Waititi, (who also adapted the screenplay), proves expert in his management of tone, such that the farcical elements, however numerous, don’t detract from the very real friendship the renegades develop as they elude the world’s most dedicated social services officer. Also such that the grimmer, more ultimate realities of life — death and bureaucracy, to name two — are given their due without being allowed to overshadow all.
Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes