From New Zealand with love12 Aug 2014, Posted by in ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS
From New Zealand with love
by Gemma Files
eye weekly, December 9, 1999
The New Zealand film When Love Comes had its first Canadian screening at the 1998 Toronto International Film Festival, after which it quickly disappeared into that void reserved for good, but not distinctive, foreign movies with no distribution.
Love is a heartfelt but slightly uneven film, falling neatly halfway between the blazing originality of fierce New Zealand indie masterworks like Lee Tamahori’s Once Were Warriors (Love star Rena Owen’s own film debut) and odd missteps like this year’s Saving Grace.
Luckily, distribution has been found, which means Owen, a Maori actress who might be one of New Zealand’s most famous exports, will get a bit of a return on her country’s film commission’s investment. They paid over $10,000 to send her to Toronto, where one of the only interviews she’d do would be with me, while squished between two potted plants in a hotel lobby.
“I took this role because it was a very glamorous one,” Owen says, “and I wanted something like that, especially after spending Once Were Warriors getting the stuffing kicked out of me. My character, Katie, has just come back from 10 years in L.A. She was a huge singing success as a teenager, sort of the Natalie Imbruglia of her time, so she ended up going to the U.S. Now she’s my age, a one-hit wonder and she has to get real before it’s too late.”
In Katie’s case, “getting real” includes a stay at her oldest friend’s house, where she meets troubled singer-songwriter Mark — a charismatic, bisexual trouble-magnet, for whom she and the friend soon fall. Director and co-writer Garth Maxwell juggles the ensuing angst and bed-hopping with a kind of ragged yet appealing aplomb, keeping things sweet even in the midst of potential tragedy; though none of it leaves much of a mark, it’s still time well wasted.
“It’s a sweet film, and Garth’s a beautiful man,” Owen says, cheerfully. “But the real point is re-confirming my commitment to New Zealand movies, because where I come from, there’s no point not supporting your own film industry. We make one to three films a year; they’re all small, low-budget and our funding comes directly from the government. I’m talking about having four million to go ’round, for everybody. No more, no less. So when we finally do get a feature together, it’s something worth doing a bit of touring over.”
Even when you end up stuck next to the plants?
Owen shrugs. “Better here than nowhere.”