Ascendant Kiwi star Rose Matafeo affirms her status as one of our nation's brightest talents in this hugely endearing and extremely funny local comedy.
She plays Zoe, a champion tree surgeon who operates an arborist business with her boyfriend, Tim, played by English actor Matthew Lewis, forever to be best known for playing Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter franchise, even though he's done plenty of varied work since then.
Sick of the sight of their friends being taken down by parenthood, Zoe freaks out when she unexpectedly gets pregnant, worrying her life is over. Setting out to achieve all she can before the baby arrives, Zoe's maternity panic has her convinced she can still attend the tree-climbing champs in Canada, which creates problems with Tim.
Matafeo has long displayed finely-honed comedic chops, but she positively jumps off the screen here with a firecracker energy and presence that spins Zoe's neuroses into comedy gold. Lewis bounces off her nicely, and their chemistry is great, but this is principally Matafeo's show, and she brings the house down.
The film overall projects a comedic confidence that is all too rare in New Zealand films, with director Curtis Vowell and screenwriter Sophie Henderson (whose experiences together partially inspired the film) affecting a sunny, energetic tone in which outright hilarity and genuine pathos both thrive. The laughs are outsized, but the characters never stop being relatable. You never knew tree-felling could be this funny.
It also speaks volumes about the depth of New Zealand's current comedy talent base that the film features so many effortlessly funny supporting turns, with Alice Snedden and Nic Sampson doing particularly fine work in smaller roles.
The whole affair shows how the contemporary New Zealand comedic sensibility can be accessed and interpreted from a variety of angles and personalities to bountiful effect.
This may be the movie that shuts down our cultural cringe once and for all – it's undeniable awesomeness comes with no qualifiers. Bravo.
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Cast: Rose Matafeo, Matthew Lewis, Emily Barclay
Director: Curtis Vowell
Running time: 91 minutes
Rating: M (Offensive language, sexual references & drug use)
Verdict: Rose Matafeo's superlative talent helps birth an instant kiwi comedy classic.