Poppy (PG, 98 minutes) Director: Linda Niccol ***
Nineteen year old Poppy (Libby Hunsdale) is ready to take control of her own life.
She is determined to complete the automotive apprenticeship her late father promised, starting with passing her driving test.
Sure, she helps her older brother Dave (Ari Boyland) in the shop and with charming customers, but Poppy “needs to be paid, not just pocket money,” as she tells him.
However, times are difficult for the Kāpiti-based company “Simpson & Son”. There are too many Brojects and not enough paying customers, while Dave is still struggling to come to terms with the death of her parents – and his part in it. Losing his longtime girlfriend didn’t help either and as a result he hit the bottle – hard.
Libby Hunsdale and Ari Boyland are doing great things in the new kiwi film Poppy.
* Anna Hutchison tells stories in the romantic comedy film A Love Yarn
* The first NZ movie will resume after being locked
* Poppy: Kiwi film about a girl with an extra chromosome in the works
That means Poppy’s quest for independence doesn’t go down well, especially when she also starts a relationship with Luke (Sebastian Hunter), an aspiring musician who was “nice to her in high school” after his car was impaled on a street Island. Dave worries that his First Dates NZ loving sister may not be ready for love and fears that, like her emerging attempts at being behind the wheel, she may move too fast.
Known as the first local film to start filming again after last year’s lockdown, this kāpiti dramedy is at its core a celebration of the region and its leading actress. Hunsdale does a great job as Poppy, and the script enables her to prove that Down syndrome is not an obstacle to life to the full. Poppy is a nuanced, lively, and comedic tour de force and it’s easy to see why she charms most of those she comes in contact with. Her relationship with her protective brother is particularly impressive, evidence of both Hunsdale and the rather brilliant Martin Henderson-esque Boyland (Shortland St, Go Girls).
After a strong opening, Poppy loses herself and concentrates a little towards the end as the family drama gives way to burnout action.
It doesn’t all work, however, not all actors reach quite the same heights, and writer-director Niccol’s script tries to maintain a consistent tone (which also spoiled her 2008 script for Second-Hand Wedding). You can see the story occasionally grind through the gears as it tries to move from a light comedy to more dramatic subjects.
Seeing this, an American audience could be forgiven for being confused about what our AA is actually doing, and while there is interesting discussion about allowing Poppy to make decisions for himself, recording an intimate scene seems unnecessary and could be Problem pose the rest of the story for some.
Likewise, the film loses its way after a long opening time and concentrates a little towards the end, as the family drama gives way to the burnout action.
A lack of characters also translates into a little too much fiction, when in reality that probably results in an accurate depiction of the small town of New Zealand.
Poppy is likely to be a huge hit in his own backyard and hopefully pushes his two leads on to bigger things.