Runtime: 1 hr. 49 min.
Theatrical Release: Jun 1, 1999 Wide
Synopsis: This biography of Father Damien, the Catholic priest who in 1873 volunteered for service on the eponymous Hawaiian leper colony, doesn't hesitate to... This biography of Father Damien, the Catholic priest who in 1873 volunteered for service on the eponymous Hawaiian leper colony, doesn't hesitate to idolize its subject, and why should it? For 15 years Damien ministered almost single-handedly to the quarantined community, supplying what medication he could procure while struggling against the red tape from organizations (religious and governmental) that would rather have forgotten all about the hundreds of people slowly dying in primitive conditions. He won some battles and lost others, finally succumbing to the disease himself in 1888. The film can't overcome the inherent weaknesses of projects such as this: high officials given to improbable speeches recapping the relevant historical events for us, a certain formlessness generated by skipping through the years and only hitting the high points, stock bureaucratic villains whose motives are never fairly explored. On the other hand, screenwriter John Briley has an Oscar on his shelf for Gandhi, so he knows how to string the lessons together and make them go down smoothly.
The earnestness of the project no doubt led to the who's-who supporting cast (Sam Neill, Derek Jacobi, Peter O'Toole, Leo McKern) (oh yes, and Kris Kristofferson), but it is David Wenham who must carry the film as Damien, which he does well enough--not spectacularly but with a touching humility not above a tetchy self-righteousness. Director Paul Cox was an inspired choice, however, bringing to the project his patient fascination with emotions at their most subtle and restrained; as a result, Molokai's low-key sense of conflict, often a fatal flaw in similar movies, becomes the film's saving grace, a manifestation of its subject's quiet, persistent faith. --Bruce Reid
Starring: David Wenham, Kate Ceberano, Chris Haywood, Thom Hoffman
Starring: David Wenham, Kate Ceberano, Chris Haywood, Thom Hoffman, Derek Jacobi, Keanu Kapuni-Szasz, Alice Krige, Kris Kristofferson, Leo McKern, Sam Neill, Peter O'Toole, Michaël Pas, Dirk Roofthooft, Tom Wilkinson, Aden Young
Director: Paul Cox