Julian Dennison has carved out a nice career for himself ever since appearing in Hunt For The Wilderpeople back in 2016. He’s done some blockbusters like films from the Legendary Godzilla/King Kong franchise and smaller films based in his home country of New Zealand. His latest movie is just a small period piece set in New Zealand called Uproar. It’s a sweet little film I’m sure American audiences will enjoy.

Josh Waaka (Julian Dennison) is a 17-year-old boy who has some issues at the school he goes to, St Gilbert’s School for Men. He lives with his mother Shirley Waaka (Minnie Driver) who is almost unrecognizable as this character and his brother who was injured playing rugby. Dennison’s character has a teacher who has taken an interest in him. Mr. Madigan (Rhys Darby). He notices this boy has some acting abilities and tries to get him to work on his acting skills. Dennison’s character gets another opportunity, which he dreamed of, which is playing on his school’s Rugby team. He has to try to balance these two things in his life and it’s not easy.

This film has a connection to a previous film. Clint Eastwood’s movie Invictus is about the South African rugby team the Springboks. New Zealand loves this team and sport but it is the apartheid situation that is the real reason there is a connection to that film. A young girl is friends with the Dennison character.  She is a protester who is trying to show racism is wrong and that the 80s was a time when things changed in the world. The protests were bloody and violent. There was a chant “We don’t want this racist war” This said it all. This subplot in the movie was quite powerful.

I’m a fan of coming-of-age films. They come in different shapes and sizes. This one has a lot of moving parts. The two main storylines take up most of the runtime. Dennison’s character has to balance both storylines and he’s thrown into the third subplot as well. The writers/directors, Hamish Bennett, Paul Middleditch, and Sonia Whiteman, were dealing with quite a lot with these three storylines. Others might not have been able to balance this but they did a good job.

Going back decades and decades a lot of films have had villain-type characters. This one is no different than all the others that came before it. Principal Shane (Mark Mitchinson) is that villain.  He has altier motives and he has an added dislike of Dennison’s character’s family. Overnight the odds and this character’s hatred are the main crux of the film. Mitchinson’s character isn’t the best villain character in a movie but he serves his purpose quite nicely.  His motivations are very much like a villain would have.

The directors have assembled a great supporting cast opposite Dennison. Darby, Driver , James Rolleston and Erana James are all fantastic. They use the supporting characters moniker perfectly. As teachers, parental/family figures, friends or even Mitchinson as the villain the supporting cast are all fantastic in their various roles. They all support Dennison in great way.

Uproar has a lot going on in it. It has to balance two main stories and a subplot. The writers and directors do a great job with all of what they have to deal with. Dennison has taken his young career and turned it into a solid career with great performances. This is one of those performances. He has a lot of range as an actor. He goes from happy to sad in a blink of an eye.  This coming-of-age film wasn’t like others I’ve seen. It’s a very good one though. I’m a fan of period piece films and this one integrated the 80s nicely into the story. This was a pleasant surprise to me. I truly enjoyed what I watched.

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