Watch The Trailer
Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Many strands are woven elegantly together in this long-awaited adaptation of Patricia Grace’s
best-selling novel: three cousins, three families, and three timeframes in the Maori community
of New Zealand between the post-war 1940s and today. Co-directors Ainsley Gardener and
Briar Grace Smith tell a sprawling story of separation and dispossession which feels both
intimate in terms of its setting and epic in resonance.
The opening sequence shows the titular cousins in their natural state, as free Māori girls
speaking their language, in their natural, beautifully unspoiled world. The contrast with what
lies ahead is stark and a universal heartbreak for many indigenous people. Their journeys are
vastly different, but the love and history that binds them give the film its shape and meaning.
It’s a memory mosaic about the bonds, unbreakable though frayed for decades, that connect
three Maori women from the 1940s to the present. The story’s larger themes are those well
known to indigenous peoples—the importance of family and the sacred nature of the land.
The quality of the performances is superb throughout and remarkably well-matched at every
stage of each character’s life. Moving and proudly matriarchal, Cousins dramatises the
marginalisation of the Maori indigenous community, depicting transgressions which have been
mirrored globally across many cultures and generations. It’s a powerful film that brings these
three cousins to life in a way that is riveting and richly rewarding.