A yearning panpipe flutter or an obtrusive slo-mo flashback is never far away in Vincent Ward’s over-egged and under-cooked period piece, ‘River Queen’, a limp and unfocused jungle epic about a mother (Samantha Morton, decent) who loses her son to war. While the outré setting – 1860s New Zealand where indigenous Maori tribes are struggling to fend off European settlers – is certainly enough to pique the interest, you can never escape the fact that this story might have benefited from the composure and decisiveness of a Malick, a Mann or even (whisper it) a Costner to locate its pulse.
There’s no doubt, however, that Ward has a distinctive feel for combining colours on screen, yet he’s a visual stylist of limited creative breadth whose brash and busy compositions would perhaps have been better suited to a live-action Disney fantasia than a ‘serious’ costume drama. The pacing, too, is totally shot, with ‘emotional’ scenes needlessly (shamelessly, even) staggered to push the central maternal relationship.
Cast and crew