Review by Colleen Brown
‘Poppy’ – even saying the word makes your mouth curve into a smile. The film ‘Poppy’ will give you a great deal to smile about. Set in Kapiti, a small New Zealand town, it has all the ingredients of a ‘feel good’ movie – sibling conflict, unresolved grief, burgeoning relationships, unfulfilled dreams; except it is so much more than that.
The recently released film ‘Poppy’ is about a very determined, ambitious young woman who wants to be a mechanic – even in the 21st century that’s enough to set the character Poppy apart. But Poppy acted by Libby Hunsdale, has Down syndrome and we see her set about organising her life to make those dreams a reality in a very capable, resolute way. Make no mistake, the typical attitudinal barriers for disabled people are there, sometimes accompanied by side-long glances and inappropriate comments, at other times in full technicolour scrawled on a garage door.
Libby Hunsdale is in virtually every scene in the film and is quite believable as a real ‘Poppy’ in everyday New Zealand life. The supporting cast are great, believable characters, but it is Poppy who shines.
I was asked to review the script for the NZ On Air when the producers were looking for funds to support the film being made; so, I was lucky enough to be asked to the premier here in Auckland. Libby is a confident, charming young woman who when I asked her – ‘what comes next?’, with a massive smile replied “Hollywood’. I have no doubt that she could do it!
I cannot think of another full-length film apart from ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ that has a lead role starring a person with Down syndrome. Writer and director, Linda Niccol has an impressive list of writing accomplishments. In an interview she said,’ As for themes I do like women who fight against expectations and prejudice.’ Certainly, this film tackles both of those challenges, which may come, perhaps unexpectedly just like in ‘Poppy’ from within a disabled person’s own family.
Go and see the film, take the whanau, sit back and watch stereotypes being smashed. I just wish that a film like this had been around when our son Travers was young because above all else as Travers’ whanau it gives you hope, hope for a much more inclusive brave future.
For a list of screenings see https://www.poppymovie.nz/screenings