Review: Charlotte Rampling in formidable form in must-see Juniper

A New Zealand film with a cinematic icon front and centre arrives in cinemas this week after a COVID-19 delay. It's called Juniper and it stars British actress Charlotte Rampling.

What a treat. Oscar nominee and all-round paragon of cinema, Rampling, anchoring a local gem of a film shot in west Auckland and now coming to the big screen where she belongs.

Rampling is Ruth, searingly acerbic, her demeanour fuelled by a bottle of gin a day ensconced in her estranged son's rambling farmhouse. Her leg is broken, it's clear her relationship with her son is too.

When her grandson Sam suddenly lands back home after being expelled from school, they find themselves trapped with each other and are not happy about it.

A few broken glasses and icy meltdowns under their belts, Ruth and Sam uncover some common - albeit shaky - ground and it's beautiful to watch.

The tenderness of the telling here makes the slow thaw incredibly rewarding, the moments of joy offsetting the enormity of the heartache.

Rampling is of course in formidable form and local newcomer George Ferrier immediately commands our attention with a contained explosive performance.

Elegant, intimate, bitter-sweet, Juniper is a must-see rich tapestry best enjoyed in a dark cinema and on the big screen.

Five stars.