River Queen

2 out of 5 stars

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.


Release details

Cast and crew

Vincent Ward
Samantha Morton
Kiefer Sutherland
Cliff Curtis