Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Human Traces

I was a bit concerned about Human Traces being a throwback to the twentieth century's long tradition of dark and depressing New Zealand films. A thriller filmed on a sub-antarctic island didn't really hold much promise for breaking out of that mold,  and the first section of the film didn't seem to either. On the other hand the acting talent was good - Sophie Henderson did an amazing job in Fantail and Mark Mitchinson was a practised and convincing bad guy in both Nothing Trivial and Bloodlines.

The story centres around husband and wife Sarah (Sophie Henderson) and Glenn (Mark Mitchinson) who are two-thirds of a team of three monitoring the eco-system of an un-named island south of New Zealand.  Sarah is young and blonde and pretty, and Glenn is a somewhat morose character who is at least twenty-fives years her senior. They met when he was one of Sarah's lecturers at university.The film begins as the other team member leaves and her replacement (Pete) arrives. Pete is also young and beautiful and doesn't have much of a science background

The narrative is told three times, each time from a different member of the team's perspective. Salient events are the realisation that their attempts at pest control are failing and Glenn not wanting to relay this information back to New Zealand and the failure of the radio and its transmission mast (preventing further communication with New Zealand).

When the radio fails and Glenn refuses to fix it, I thought we were into a hostage situation like the one in the Berlin Syndrome. But as we moved into hearing and seeing the story from Pete and Sarah's perspective we found it's not a straightforward as that and the power doesn't rest solely with Glenn. Human Traces is a nuanced and interesting story about three flawed human beings in an isolated and scenic environment. The acting is excellent, particularly from newbie Vinnie Bennett, and the location contributes to the tension in the film.

Anne's rating 3.5/5 Ian's Rating 3/5

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