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‘James & Isey’ – Review

‘James & Isey’ – Review

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Sometimes you need to step back and life and take stock of where you’ve been, what you’ve done and just what life has to offer. That’s exactly where James & Isey takes us in a beautiful and heartfelt documentary concerning two people and their adorable relationship.

James & Isey follows treasured kuia Isey Cross as she approaches her 100th birthday and her special relationship with her son James.

2020 was a year that took us all by surprise and threw the world into turmoil. It was a time when many of us were drawn back to family and when we took account of our lives and what we’d all been through. Coming into 2021 there’s a collective feeling that we could all do with a break from all of this past turmoil and documentary filmmaker Florian Habicht’s James and Isey with its message of family, good times and love is without-a-doubt the film we all need in our lives right now. Presenting a portrait of James and Isey Cross, a unique duo of a son and mum living in Northland, as they build up to the celebration of Isey’s 100th birthday, Habicht documents their unique outlook on life and the lessons learned in over a century of life and this makes for a perfect portrait of local Kiwiana at its best.

Habicht takes a very laid-back approach to his subject matter, and he’s very much the third protagonist of this story as he documents both their lives, but is also brought into the fold and becomes a part of the Cross whānau over the course of five days. Capturing life lessons and profound insights into what it means to live a full life, Habicht gives audiences a new perspective through the lives of James and Isey and their glass is half-full approach to life is something that audiences can genuinely cheer about. Habicht’s film is a genuine gift to his friends, a pair of people that he truly cares for, and you can feel the love in every frame of this marvellous documentary.

Taking centre stage in James and Isey are the title characters themselves and they’re a perfectly cast pair. Fun-loving, happy-go-lucky and possessed of a profound spirit and powerful mana, James and Isey are a solidly powerful pair and as they let us into their unique perspective of how life is to be lived. Recounting old lessons and past stories we learn about Isey’s family life and how she grew up, along with James’ career as a performer and his call to return home to both look after his mum, alongside his connection to the spiritual force of Aotearoa.

James and Isey are a quintessential Kiwi duo and many who watch this film will be well pleased with the journey that they take us on. This is a distinctly New Zealand film that documents what a life well lived truly looks like and all who see it are sure to leave with a smile on their face.

Image: MadMan Films