A sob story of colossal proportion, Whale Rider falls under the category "minority trying to keep its culture alive." In this case, it’s the Maori culture in New Zealand we are talking about, and the story of a family that loses its only male offspring and has to live with his twin, who will have to take over the destiny of the tribe.
Acting is pretty good, admittedly, with the young hero having received more than a few awards and nominations and being pretty certain of a real chance at an acting career. As far as the rest goes, the actors move one more than expected – there is always a danger with a movie about a foreign culture that one doesn’t understand the emoting, but this movie is savvy about avoiding the risk.
The scenery is wonderful, and some of the whale shots are beautiful. Unfortunately, there are too many of the latter, or they are too long. They do not contribute to the plot and a bit of economy might have done the movie more good.
The script suffers from laconism. That may well reflect the way Maoris interact with each other, but the story is a bit hard to follow if nobody ever expresses what’s going on.
The ending is predictable and expected.
All in all, I don’t know.