The Piano

The Piano ★★★★★

Ada McGrath is “difficult.”

Unmarried, with a child, and mute, Ada (Holly Hunter) is sent by her father to marry a Scottish colonist in 1850s New Zealand. She insists on taking her massive piano. The trip isn’t easy (Ada vomits upon arriving on the wild and windswept shore) and neither is she. When her new husband Alisdair (Sam Neill) is late coming to meet her, the captain offers to let her return to the ship. Speaking via sign language to her daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin), she essentially tells him to “f*** off!”

Welcome to the cinema—and, specifically, the masterpiece—of Jane Campion, where women who have been misread by society as “difficult” are revealed to be forceful, perceptive, damaged, ingenious, sexual, caring, angry, and resolute. In other words, human. And therefore difficult.

Gloomily gorgeous in sound and image, poetic in ways that are simple, yet also plumb unanswerable, watery depths, The Piano swirls in melodrama and metaphor. Consider the instrument of the title...

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