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Film Review: No. 2

Nana, A the octogenarian matriarch of a Fijian-New Zealand household sits quietly on the porch, reflecting on how tedious life is now. Eager to bring back some life, she insists that a party be thrown in her honour. Only grandchildren are allowed, not her children; oh … and no outsiders either!  Nana (Ruby Dee) proclaims that her successor (or Number Two) will be announced at the party.

In No. 2 we have a feel-good movie about family and roots. Yet, throughout the film, tensions are high, as the adult grandchildren do not get along with one other, creating complications when they have to get everything prepared and ready, for the feast in the evening. As the whole event takes place in one single day, nothing must go wrong to derail proceedings. Of course, though, things do. After Nana calls it off, everyone begins rallying together to pull it together. Plenty of laughs – and more arguments – take place and so things go.

Writer and director Toa Fraser based the film on a stage play he had written. To a large extent he does a good job to provide the multitude of characters with enough screen time for audiences to understand each individual and what their current life situation is. Cross cutting with events outside of the Mt Roskill house (where much of the events take place) provides some relief for those like me, who might wonder, if these people have any identity beyond the family titles which have been bestowed upon them.

Fraser fully utilises Don Maglashan’s musical score, though sometimes to excess. Ruby Dee, Tuva Novotny, Rene Naufahu and Antony Starr were simply sublime. Every time the camera focused in on them they shone. Their performances were well supported by the other cast members.

Two rather small niggles did leave the audience feeling wrong-footed at times. While the friction between the family is well played, it got overly irritating when emotions went from zero to one hundred in a split second, sometimes over the smallest of things. Secondly, the choice of cameras used to film this movie seemed rather grainy in broad daylight scenes. I might not have picked up on this if there was a darker tint.

Nevertheless I enjoyed No. 2. And I enjoyed the successor who was chosen. Try and guess who it is while you’re watching. There’s certainly no shortage of choices.

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