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Hook, Line & Sinker directed by Andrea Bosshard & Shane Loader

A coming-of-age story for grown-ups from the directors of Taking the Waewae Express.

They live in Wellywood, but Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader don’t make blockbusters. Their budgets are minuscule, and their stories aren’t from an imagined world but from the community around them. The themes are universal, yet played out on a scale and in settings ordinary folks can relate to.

Taking the Waewae Express (2009) was a beautifully understated but emotionally strong look at the effect of death on a group of young friends. It was a coming-of-age story and so, too, is Hook, Line & Sinker, only the boundary explored here is one for the grown-ups: the acceptance of ageing and the closing of doors. As in the earlier film, there is grieving to be done – for fading powers and loss of self-esteem.

When PJ (Rangimoana Taylor) is diagnosed with failing eyesight from macular degeneration, he loses his truck-driving job. Family and workmates watch in dismay as he fails to cope with this gracefully. Meanwhile, life has to go on: partner Ronnie (Carmel McGlone) is building up her wedding-dress business; daughter Stella (Elizabeth McMenamin) is embarking on a career in photography. Ronnie’s sister Bernadette (Geraldine Brophy), recently divorced, moves back to Wellington and into their lives. Their stories play out alongside PJ’s, linked to it but not in a way that artificially ramps up the conflict.

This seems deliberate. The Mike Leigh development process used here – improvisation with actors to evolve story, character and action – seeks the natural behaviour of people trying to get on with life, where conflict is more likely to be avoided than turned into confrontation, and where there isn’t necessarily any big character transformation. It has produced a loose, slice-of-life kind of film, where situations evolve at their own pace rather than being driven forward by the pursuit of a goal.

Countering this looseness is an economy in the editing, which doesn’t mess about with time passing but cuts straight to the next development in the story, trusting the audience to connect the dots. And although only hinted at and barely cohesive, a common theme is the value of work in one’s life. The exception is son Gabe’s thin story, making one wonder if there was more to it originally.

Although it doesn’t pack as big an emotional punch as Waewae Express, the film still offers highly engaging performances. McGlone and Brophy are standouts, a pair of Irish redheads who like a bit of a sing and who move easily between exuberance and the sober realities of life. With lively original music from Wellington’s Plan 9, and lots of that singing, Hook, Line & Sinker exudes a generous and very real warmth.

HOOK, LINE & SINKER, directed by Andrea Bosshard & Shane Loader.