What if God was one of us?


A sick girl and a perceptive dog: Kaitlyn Bernard is Abigail, and Batman the dog plays himself, in The Healer. Photograph courtesy

A ROUGH-AROUND-THE EDGES young man, replete with a lot of bravado and a whirligig macho kind of engagement with the world, with all its women, deals and chance-taking, finds his comeuppance in a way that takes him – and will take you – by surprise. Paco Arango’s film The Healer is exactly the kind of end-of-year fare that will lend you the courage to face what happens next.

Alec Bailey (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) is an English bloke with a electrical appliance repair business in London. He’s not doing all that well, what with a great debt he’s incurred to thugs, and a penchant for entertaining women clients in their bedrooms, while their husbands are at work. Enter a mysterious uncle he’s never met (Jonathan Pryce) and an offer he just cannot refuse: one that effectively offers to clean the slate, and spirit him off for a year to a place he’s never been.

Sounds dodgy? Wait till you encounter Fred (Shaun Clarke), the Nova-Scotia chap at the airport and his monosyllabic conversational skills, not to mention the memory of said newfound uncle taking surreptitious pictures of Alec. But then, an apparent typo in an ad in the local rag calling for work sets a chain of events in irresistible motion. The Healer, you see, is the name of Bailey’s repair business. And to people with broken parts and things that needs healing, the rest is easy.

Can Bailey be the small town’s saviour? Does he want to? There’s a flock of sheep, a border collie named Batman and police dog called Ned, who argue the point with perspicacity. But further to that, there’s a little sick girl (Kaitlyn Bernard). And ah, you may sigh: the syrupy possibilities of a story with pretty and sick children and adorable dogs is a dangerous one if you’re going to hold your serious storytelling values intact, for a grown up audience. But Arango does a fine job in reining in the cutes and holding a story that is as much about loss and sibling love as it is about a belief in the powers of coincidence.

Light and occasionally funny, The Healer is an antidote to harshness in the world. It’s a tonic without being crass or foolish. And it will leave you with much to chew on. Take tissues.

  • The Healer is written and directed by Paco Arango and features a cast headed by Jeremy Akerman, Ian Alden, Nikki Barnett, Batman the Dog, Kaitlyn Bernard, Anne Christie, David Christoffel, Shaun Clarke, Richard Donat, Brian Downey, Chase Duffy, Serafina Ebosele, Pasha Ebrahimi, Jorge Garcia, Victoria Gillan, Adrian G. Griffiths, Gay Hauser, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Suresh John, Chris Lawrence, Glenn Lefchak, Gavin Liddel, Camilla Luddington, Jennifer Morris, Christian Murray, Ned the Dog, Michael Pellerin, Laura Posner, Jonathan Pryce, Charlie Rhindress, David Rossetti, Georgia Rudderham, Igor Shamuilov, Anne Stockdale, Jackie Torrens, Kyla Wilson and Cecil Wright. Produced by Paco Arango, Enrique Posner and Michael Volpe, it features creative input by Nathan Wang (music), Javier Aguirresarobe (cinematography), Teresa Font (editing), Sheila Lane (casting), Angela Murphy (production design) and Martha Curry (costumes). It releases in South African cinemas on December 7 2018.


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