BEYOND THE KNOWN WORLD (M, 102 mins) Directed by Pan Nalin ★★★★
Carl (David Wenham) and Julie Hansen (Sia Trokenheim) have been eagerly anticipating this day. Their 19-year-old daughter is due home from her OE.
While the recently divorced parents’ own relationship isn’t in a good space, they both hope their beloved progeny’s return might at least reduce some of that divide. However, any excitement quickly turns to panic when Eva doesn’t appear at the arrivals gate as expected. Initially, thoughts turn to the fact that she might have missed her flight, but when they can’t raise her on her cellphone and discover that her “boyfriend” has been ditched and is already back in the country, there’s only one thing for it – Carl and Julie will have to go to India to try to locate her. Once there, they discover that finding the truth, let alone her, may be more difficult than they could ever have imagined. She is one of multiple overdue backpackers on the Delhi Police’s books, fellow young travellers are at best unreliable, at worst downright duplicitous, while others offer assessments that have them questioning how much they know their own daughter.
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A New Zealand-India co-production, Beyond the Known World is an intriguing, intimate look at one fractured family’s struggle for reunification. Director Pan Nalin (Samsara) does a terrific job of evoking the sights, sounds and even smells of rural India, as his handheld camerawork takes us onto the streets and into less-than-sanitary living spaces. It also provides a terrific backdrop for the ever-watchable Wenham (Top of the Lake) and Trokenheim (Step Dave) to sell the drama. While he normally excels in this kind of role, Trokenheim displays a maturity and depth of performance audiences might not have seen before.
Writer Dianne Taylor’s (2008’s Apron Strings) script might follow a well-worn path and not provide too many surprises, but there’s something emotionally identifiable and compelling about watching the Hansens slowly discover clues that lead to both more hope and potential devastation.