Mr. Pip follows the story of 14-year-old Matilda (Xzannjah Matsi) who lives on a small Island called Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
The film illuminates the struggles that Bougainville faced to gain their independence which involved the brutal murders and rape of local civilians by the army. Director and Writer, Andrew Adamson (famous for directing Shrek 1, Shrek 2 and The Chronicles of Narnia) turned a story of misfortune and sorrow to unexpected joy through the use of imagination.
As the civil war raged on in 1989 in Bougainville all the white folk left the Island except for Mr. Watts (Hugh Laurie). The pangs of war brought everything to a halt, even the school. Mr. Watts decided to reopen the school and started to read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens to his new scholars. At that point young, Matilda becomes memorized by the characters in the story and they become existent to her.
Matilda is completely transfixed by Pip (Eka Darville), the main character in the book. She dips in and out of daydreams about the 19th century characters and her mind takes her to a place where Pip and she are companions and forever soulmates. Pip becomes her refuge amongst the war. The army create mayhem when they find ‘Pip’ written in the sand. The rebel leader demands that the civilians bring ‘Pip’ to him or they will suffer the consequences. The unpretentious act of Matilda writing Pip’s name in the sand changes everything about the place that she came to know as home.
The characters in the film are transparent and filled with culture that you can’t help but laugh, cry and hope with them as the plot unfolds. Xzannjah Matsi, the actress from Papua New Guinea, gave an explosive performance in bringing ‘Great Expectations’ to life. Matilda’s relationship with her mother, Delores (Healesville Joel) is heart captivating. Delores tries to teach her daughter about good and evil as the Bible explains it and their relationship pays off at the end. Mr. Watts is a very puzzling character from beginning to end which built a good kind of anticipation throughout the film.
Before watching this film, I knew very little about the horrors that occurred in that part of the world. I believe that in real life, literature novels undoubtedly gave people something to believe in when reality seemed too much to bear, even on a small unknown Island like Bougainville. The film overall tugs at the heart strings as it takes you through an emotional rollercoaster through the mind’s eye.