“If there is beauty to be found in affliction, then I have found it in the imagery of this legend”
– Mary Sewell
When two middle-aged sisters, Alex and Claire, learn of their abuser’s death, they journey to a northern New Zealand settlement to witness his burial. From the opening scenes we see there are other forces at work.
Life is simple in this close community. Everyone is connected. For Tia’s single mother Madonna, a helping hand makes all the difference whether it is from her mother, Nana the Kuia, or a trusted friend and local celebrity Dennis (aka Birdman.).
Alex and Claire roll into town. Triggered memories take us back through their childhood. We witness the subtlety of their abuser, Dennis’s, deception. Blinded by the practicalities of family life, their parents David and Helen miss the telling signs of interference. Helen comes close but she can’t quite put her finger on it.
Eleven-year-old Tia is the unsuspecting link between past and present. Like her mother, Madonna, Tia is strong minded and resilient, though far less trusting. Tia is like her Grandmother, Nana, she keeps a watchful eye. Madonna prepares food for the funeral and whether intentionally or not, Tia uncharacteristically lets down her guard setting Madonna off on the mother of all missions.
A cemetery provides the stage for the final showdown. From a distance Alex and Claire observe as mourners gather by Birdman’s graveside. The burial proceeds but all dignity shatters when Madonna wrecks havoc. The heaven’s quake as Nana commands the soaring Kotuku to damn the Birdman’s soul to the underworld.
It’s evening and Alex and Claire encounter Tia one last time. Nothing is said. A passing glance offers mutual understanding of all that has transpired. What needed to be done has been done. There has been a reckoning. Peace is restored.