Adapted from Patricia Grace's popular novel, this New Zealand drama about family, identity, and Maori culture demands your attention. Set across multiple decades, Cousins moves back and forth between the three protagonists' lives, from childhood to young and older adulthood. If you don't keep up, the story may be hard to follow. And even if you do stick with the nonlinear narrative, there are many blanks to fill in. For example, there's no big sequence into how Mata finds herself to be experiencing homelessness, although it's easy to see how. But the beauty of the movie -- which gives an insight into Maori culture so rarely seen on-screen -- is not so much with the journey, but rather the destination.
At the center of the film is the issue of identity and family, or as called in Maori culture, "whanau." All three cousins have different relationships with their heritage. Makareta steps away from it, running away on the day of her arranged marriage, leaving Missy to volunteer to take her place, recognizing what it means to her family. Meanwhile, Mata, the tragic figure of the piece, cruelly has her identity taken away from her, placed in an orphanage and given the "White" name, May. The film won't be for everyone. But those who commit fully to the 98-minute running time will see a story that will linger long after the closing credits.