Julian Dennison delivers another charismatic performance in a witty and wise story about a young student trying to find his place among New Zealand’s fight for its national identity in the ’80s.
Paul Middleditch, Hamish Bennett
In 1981 the South African rugby team toured New Zealand, sparking protests across the country about the government’s decision to let them play, given South Africa’s apartheid policy. While this battle for the nation’s identity rages, 17-year old Josh Waaka (Julian Dennison) has to figure out his own place in the world.
Josh is content to let life happen around him. Since the death of his father, things haven’t exactly been bright at home. His older brother Jamie (James Rolleston) is in a numb stasis after an injury has kept him from continuing his rugby career. Their mom Shirley (Minnie Driver) spends most of her time working to keep the family afloat. While rugby is on everyone’s mind at home and in school, one of his teachers (Rhys Darby) pushes Josh to audition for drama school. This opens up new ways of looking at the world, and soon he starts to see the activism in his community differently.
Dennison, whom audiences will remember from Deadpool 2 and Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, gives another charismatic performance that has you rooting for him from the start. Along with co-writer Sonia Whiteman, directors Hamish Bennett and Paul Middleditch intelligently frame his character’s coming of age through the country’s own growing pains and acknowledgement of racial identities. With wit and wisdom, Uproar offers a cheering call to action and a reminder to live as your true self, even if it sometimes gets in the way.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: bullying