Film Review: The Insatiable Moon

Overall a positive film, The Insatiable Moon is let down by its unevenness. Although there are a few flaws, the often amusing and at times touching New Zealand film has its heart in the right place.

Arthur believes he is the second son of God. Living in a boarding house for the mentally ill, Arthur’s life changes when he encounters a woman he believes to be the Queen of Heaven…

Whilst the focus undoubtedly is on Arthur and his relationships with other people and particularly Margaret, The Insatiable Moon is also preoccupied with mental illness as a wider issue. Along with Arthur’s story, there is the secondary strand involving the threat of closure for the boarding house. The meeting in the church highlights the arguments for and against care-in-the-community schemes.

Perhaps the biggest triumph of The Insatiable Moon is its depiction of characters with mental health problems. There appears to be a real understanding of the complex nature of the illnesses by screenwriter Mike Riddell. The characters featured in the film have an array of psychological problems, mirroring the diversity of mental illness in reality. The depiction of these characters are almost wholly positive; despite their difficulties, Arthur, Norm, Pete and the others are portrayed as likeable and amusing protagonists. The Insatiable Moon offers a redeeming illustration of people with mental health problems in a format where too often depictions are negative.

Arthur is an engaging character who keeps the audience entertained throughout. The filmmakers are wise to keep the audience guessing over Arthur’s state of mind; it is unclear for the most part whether Arthur is just suffering from a mental illness or whether there may be some legitimacy to his claims. His relationship with Margaret is mostly endearing, although her behaviour is sometimes questionable considering she is married.

There is an unevenness to both the directorial style and the narrative in The Insatiable Moon. The film begins well, but loses its way in the last third, in terms of plot. The life of Arthur and his subsequent relationship with Margaret dominates the film, but it then changes tact in the final third, choosing instead to concentrate on the plight of the boarding house. The climax, in terms of Arthur’s story, feels too abrupt considering the weight given to his character for most of the film. The visual style of the film, meanwhile, remains unbalanced throughout. The combination of hand-held, documentary-style images with more traditional filming gives the movie an amateurish feel. Director Rosemary Riddell would have been wiser to stick with either one style or the other.

Best known for Whale Rider, Rawiri Paratene offers a strong performance as Arthur. Greg Johnson offers both passion and a great deal of amusement as Bob, owner of the boarding house. Performances are generally good across the board.

Although the execution lets the film down, The Insatiable Moon is worth a watch for the some great performances, frequent humour, and a few moving moments.

The Insatiable Moon was shown at a gala screening at Cineworld Haymarket. The film was followed by a Q&A session with Mike Riddell, Rosemary Riddell and Rawiri Paratene.