ONCE WERE WARRIORS is a powerful, explosive film that captures the reality of domestic violence and alcoholism within a family home. The movie is about the struggles of a Maori family that consists of five children, (Nig, Grace, Boogie, Polly & Huata,) a strong minded mother Beth, and their controlling father Jake with his self destructive behaviour. Beth and Jake appear to be happily married at first, but when under the influence of alcohol, Jake's temper is easily fired up and Beth becomes the punching bag he uses to unleash his frustration. This happens quite frequently as Jake relishes in spending time at the pub with all his mates, drinking himself into a machine of sexual energy and violence. Constantly he brings parties home early in the morning, with no respect for his young sleeping children and worn out wife. Beth loves Jake uncontrollably even when he beats her barely unrecognisable but her patience begins to wear thin after 18 yrs of marriage as she loses communication with her children and her husband as the family falls apart. Jake's irresponsibility and uncaring behaviour affects his children greatly, in particular the eldest three. Eldest son Nig has joined a gang, 12 year old wreckless son Boogie appeared in court without a parent and was sentenced into social welfare custody and 13 yr old daughter Grace is an innocent thoughtful girl that helps her mother raise the children and takes over the parenthood when necessary, but becomes subject to an unforgiving deed that leads her into self-destruction. .
This film deals with many issues, which in essence, make it a great watch. Although most of these aspects of the movie are very sensitive to many people, it is important to see that these things really do happen to a lot of people in their homes. The themes are, extreme alcohol abuse, poverty, suicide, rape, feminism & multiculturalism with the main issue being a vicious cycle of violence and a family in denial.