In Craig Monahan’s film, Healing, Don Hany plays Viktor Khadem, a convicted murderer, who has been sent to a low-security prison farm in Victoria to serve the last 18 months of a long sentence. Hany gives an outstanding performance, as does Hugo Weaving as prison officer Matt Perry.
When Khadem and young Paul (Xavier Samuel) arrive at the farm, dapper little bully Warren (Anthony Hayes) and his rather pathetic side-kick, Shane (Mark Leonard Winter), set out to teach them who is top dog within the prison community. Although this sounds a bit clichéd it is to the credit of the director and the actors that they take their characters well beyond the stereotypical.
With the encouragement of his boss (Tony Martin) and the expert assistance of Glynis (Jane Menelaus), Perry sets up a unique rehabilitation program whereby inmates care for injured birds, housed in an aviary constructed in the prison grounds. There, injured birds can be nursed until they are fit to be returned to the wild. Like his human and avian charges, “Mr Perry” is himself in need of healing, having lost a child to cancer.
Over the course of the film, various bonds and alliances are formed between officers, prisoners and birds. Although Healing is compassionate and cautiously optimistic, Monahan steers it clear of becoming overly sentimental. Above all, it is believable.
Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie’s many breathtaking shots of the birds add a very special dimension to Healing, which doubtless inspired David Hirschfelder’s beautiful musical score.