The story opens in the mid-19th century, as we meet the voluntarily-mute Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter) whose only form of expression is playing her beloved piano. She and her daughter and the piano arrive in New Zealand to meet a man she's been married to in absentia, a shy farmer trying to carve a homestead out of the Maori rain forest. Sadly, Ada has no interest in him, but she is strangely attracted to their rather earthy neighbor (Harvey Keitel).
Wow. This story captures sensuality, desire, and love in a very adult movie. Hunter won Best Actress of 1994 for her performance as the drab and somber Ada and eleven year-old Anna Paquin won Best Supporting Actress for playing her spunky daughter. Neill is appropriately stiff and unsure (and altogether adorable) as the unhappy husband, but the real surprise here is Harvey Keitel, who is unforgettably lusty. I'm amazed that he didn't get a lot of romantic roles after this; he sure has that certain something!
This is an unusual and erotic tale with unlikely lovers finding each other in an inhospitable place. Memorable.
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