At the Heart of Mr Pip (2013)
Updated, 12 December 2013:
Xzannjah Matsi and Hugh Laurie both won Best Actress and Actor at the 2013 New Zealand Film Awards.
In a packed to capacity theater at Papua New Guinea’s only cinema, Paradise Cinemas, I arrive 30 minutes late. However, the film started late so I had just missed out a few minutes of the film.
I come up to a crucial scene where Matilda’s mother does not like her reading Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, and begin the emotional journey with her in the big screen adaptation of Lloyd Jones’ Mr Pip.
In war torn Bougainville, Matilda lives with her mother. Her father works in Australia, however, the embargo placed by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government has isolated him from them. A midst the locals is an Englishman, Mr Watts, played by Hugh Laurie who teaches the locals kids and introduces them to the gentlemanly way of English life in the form of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations.
The local children, especially Matilda, are captivated by the character of Pip who while full of flaws is trying his best to be a gentleman. However, trouble brews when PNG soldiers mistake Mr Pip to be a rebel and the villagers to be rebel sympathizers.
While Hugh Laurie is the star in the film, young Bougainvillian actress Xzannjah Mitsi touches everyone’s heart as the young girl caught between the bloody civil war, and like Pip she tries to escape her identity by concealing it. However, as she grows up she begins to understand the true lesson the Mr Watts was trying to teach.
There are scenes in the film that are disturbing especially the treatment of civilians by the soldiers and while Mr Pip is a melding pot of emotions, at its heart are the essence of identity and belonging.
The film is adapted for the screen and directed by Shrek director, Andrew Adamson, and also stars Healesville Joel, Eka Darville, Kerry Fox with relatively unknown PNG actors Tidman Ikosi and Francesca Semoso.