Hawaii sure seems like a place where nothing could possibly go wrong. Palm trees, crystal blue waters and images of beauty that go beyond Hulu skirts. Hawaiian director Alika Maikau begs to differ. His new film is meant to show that societal issues exist in this perceived paradise, and like anywhere else, people on the margins are more at risk. So Molokaʻi Bound sets out to let us know.
In a beat up ride, Kainoa makes his approach on a young boy named Jonathan, and given a less than alarming response, the two obviously know each other. It’s soon revealed that Kainoa is the boy’s father, and the elder doesn’t quite get the meaning of supervised visitation. “Your mom says I was supposed to pick you up,” Dad lies.
The boy isn’t fooled and maybe that was Dad’s idea. Like he knows what he’s doing, Holden Mandrial-Santos’ portrayal gives the tenuous encounter enough room to breathe outside the boy’s school, and his son (Austin Tucker) can’t help fill the vacuum. A momentum builds and lost time and blame gives way to a mutual respect.
Friendship even and Kainoa seems ahead of the curve in the film’s attempt to show a father recently released from prison who’s trying to reconnect with his family.
The background involves the huge meth problem that recently emerged in the 50th state, and we are officially made aware when the mother shows up in a rage. Mom (Danielle Zalopany) first imposes her legal custodial standing and calls out Kainoa’s troubled past without reservation.
Kainoa certainly doesn’t do himself any favors by responding in kind. The whole thing disintegrates, and the actors deliver as if they are the unhappy couple themselves. But when the mom drives off to end the drama, there’s a feeling of being short changed with the credit roll.
Human nature, you want to know where to direct blame, and there just isn’t enough information to make the final determination. On the other hand, the answer to that question is always subjective and ultimately unknowable in any broken family. So the nine minute film lets the answer fall to our own individual interpretations, and one divergence probably breaks down by gender.
A man/father could see how Kainoa makes a very skilled fatherly approach to his son, and his care goes a long way. The good feeling comes full circle, though. A heartless, bitter mother arrives and negates what we all deserve – a second chance.
But a woman may see the drama differently. A wife/mother let down so many times before has to see a lot more change before she can open herself up to more disappointment.
Of course, men and women can likely see both sides of the tragedy. They just probably hedge one way or the other. Unfortunately, the only point of view that matters is the child’s and Tucker’s poker face doesn’t reveal a side. A necessity because the mask Jonathan must wear represents the burden children carry when parents fail to “act like adults.”
And that’s even in Hawaii.