Daffodils Review

The film “Daffodils” was always going to have a special place in my heart. Set and filmed in my New Zealand hometown of Hamilton, “Daffodils” also stars Kimbra who – you guessed it – also hails from Hamilton originally.

Safe to say I was excited going in to it. It’s not everyday you get to see your beloved city on the big screen, albeit set in a different era. Still it was nice to see how Hamilton looked like in the past and I’m impressed at how beautiful they’ve captured the city’s magic.

The iconic Hamilton Lake Domain played a big role in the setting of the film, and I couldn’t help but wish they had festoon lights like those

So while I liked the film because of it’s inherent Hamilton/New Zealand-ness, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have liked it if all those references were removed from the film. And so I was forced to confront an uncomfortable thought – that in my honest opinion, the movie has missed the mark.

It pains me to even type that out.  A quick look at the reviews from other critics and I saw that I wasn’t alone in this opinion. That they, too, left the theatre feeling underwhelmed. Maybe it was because “Daffodils” – originally a stage musical by Rochelle Bright – just didn’t work in a film setting. The premise is interesting but the conflict could have easily been resolved within minutes. I also felt like the story being told from Maisie’s (Kimbra) perspective was gratuitous and taking out that point of view might have moved the story forward even more. I felt like I didn’t connect with her character as much as the other leads, and that her character’s purpose was only to sing the soundtrack to the scenes. I would have loved it if the film spent more time giving us viewers more insight as to who she is first.

As a New Zealand film, I wanted nothing more than to completely, obsessively, love it. Especially in a film industry for a small but mighty country like ours, it is critical we support our own so we can keep making more New Zealand films in local contexts and settings. I cannot stress enough how amazing it is to be represented in a film, to see people with a similar lifestyle as you, or walking the same streets that you know and love. These are the kind of scenes we need to be seeing more of on the big screen. So while it’s important to be able to look at things objectively, it’s equally important to support your local filmmakers and actors and movies. I’m giving “Daffodils” another chance and taking mum and dad to see a film about our city.

I also felt like I would have had a different opinion if I grew up in the country and grew up with the classic Kiwi songs that were reimagined in this film. I recognised a few songs, of course, and absolutely loved hearing Chris Knox’ “Not Given Lightly” in one scene (which I bawled my eyes out to, by the way).  The music was definitely a highlight from what I’ve heard from fellow moveigoers after and after listening to Kimbra’s rendition of “Not Given Lightly” over and over again after that, I agree. Hearing classic Kiwi classics, seeing iconic New Zealand streets on the big screen really makes one nostalgic for the good old days and that nostalgia makes this film a memorable one. You might not necessarily remember the specific details that happens on the film, but you will remember how you feel when you hear the opening chords to that Dave Dobbyn song.

Daffodils stars Rose McIver, George Mason, and Kimbra and is out in theatres nationwide.