In a poignant story of life, love, loss, family and the journey home, Cousins is a unique story of three women, bound by blood, heritage and culture and is a bold and beautiful exploration of what it means to be connected to Aotearoa.
Connected by blood but separated by circumstances, three cousins Mata, Missy and Makareta spend a lifetime in search of each other.
Adapted from the best selling book by Patricia Grace, Cousins is a beautiful story of family and connection in Aotearoa, and this one is sure to have a profound effect on its audience. A joint effort from the directorial team of Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith (who also served as the film’s screenwriter and stars as Makareta), Cousins is a sincere and heartfelt work that examines the life of three Maori woman and the journeys that separate them, and the path that they must ultimately take to journey home. Gardiner and Grace-Smith’s focus on narrative and story brings you into this multi-layered story and both of these women have a deep understanding of the story they are telling and the message they want audiences to take from it.
Cousins can best be described as a lyrical piece of film work where the emphasis is placed on performance and expression. Watching this film is almost like watching a moving poem, as you are brought into a slow and thoughtful tempo that pulls you ever deeper into these characters lives and the emotions and feelings that they have for one another. It’s clear from watching this film that Gardiner and Grace-Smith had a clear vision for how they wanted to express this story, which features a bold natural colour palette, marked by striking tones of red, blue and green, and the expressive cinematography of Raymond Edwards. Composer Warren Maxwell’s score also brings you deeper into the drama of the story and costume designer Sacha Young and hair and make-up artist Catherine Maguire recreate the key time periods that are essential to this story’s expression.
The casting of this film plays a major part in its success, and audiences meet a truly extraordinary group of actresses in this production. Nine actresses in total portray our three characters from childhood to adulthood and each of them truly captures the feelings and thoughts of their characters. As Mata we have Tanea Heke, Ana Scotney, Te Raukura Gray, as Missy we have Rachel House, Hariata Moriarty, Keyahne Patrick Williams and as Makareta we have Briar Grace-Smith, Tioreore Melbourne, Mihi Te Rauhi Daniels. All of these performers have a profound impact on the success and impact of each one of these character’s stories, and this makes Cousins that much more heartfelt in its expression.
The experience of watching Cousins is the experience of watching the New Zealand story being told. This is a story of Aotearoa that travels across decades and is told from the unique perspective of three Maori women who come of age and witness the turbulent times of our history around them. It’s also a story of connection, and what it ultimately means to find your way back home, and Gardiner and Grace-Smith give this story so much emotion that you’ll desperately be trying to hold back the tears at the end. Such is the power and importance of Cousins, and it’s a story that firmly needed to be told.
Cousins is a story of Aotearoa and New Zealand that needed to be told, and it was given its voice by two extraordinary talented filmmakers who had something to say. It is a profoundly impactful watch, and one all New Zealanders can find meaning in.