The Wound (3 stars)

The Wound

Ambitious, generous spirited South African feature that strays into melodrama

Constantly exploring the fault lines in modern South Africa, The Wound develops into a measured consideration of race, class and shifting notions of masculinity. Writer-director John Trengove's assured first feature initially promises a South African variation on Brokeback Mountain before broadening into a more ambitious, wide-ranging drama.

The clash between ancient and modern, urban and rural, wealth and poverty are explored through the story of Queenstown factory worker Xolani (Nakhane Touré). Each year, he leaves his job and returns to his home village to act as a caregiver to one of the young initiates undergoing a Xhosa ritual of circumcision. The forest retreat will mark the passage to adulthood for rich Johannesburg boy Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini).

Xolani's ulterior motive for the trip is his annual reunion with childhood friend and fellow caregiver Vijami (Bongile Mantsai). Kwanda readily picks up on the affectionate bond between the two men. The connections between the central trio gradually come to dominate the story as the Xhosa ritual fades into the background.

The Wound is not without its predictable, depressingly fatalistic elements but it never entirely unfolds in ways you might have expected. There is a depth to the characters and a generosity of spirit towards them that helps to elevate the film. The brutish, married Vijami ultimately reveals a more vulnerable side and soft city lad Kwanda displays a good deal of steely resolve. We also come to see Xolani in a more plaintive light – as a lost and lonely soul, yearning for happiness but trapped by self-hatred and the suffocating expectations of others.

There are signs throughout that offer a glimmer of hope for a more progressive, forward-looking South Africa, but that starts to feel more and more like an impossible dream as the tone shifts towards the melodramatic.

Selected release from Fri 27 Apr.

The Wound

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • 1h 28min
  • Directed by: John Trengove
  • Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay

Xolani (Touré) is a factory worker in Queenstown, South Africa who returns to his home village to see childhood friend Viiami (Mantsai) and to care for city boy Kwanda (Ncovini) who is about to undergo ritual circumcision. A measured consideration of race, class and shifting notions of masculinity, not without…