Like a lot of people in the current economy, Kea (Danielle Zalopany) is juggling between two jobs. She works as a hulu dancer in a local resort for tourists, but she’s also holding down a job as a part time teacher. She’s also dealing with a relationship that is starting to get abusive and one night she takes her van and leaves her boyfriend behind.
However, in her emotional anguish, she accidentally hits a homeless man with her van. Feeling overcome with remorse, she helps him out and become friends, but Kea starts to realise that their friendship may be all she has left.
Waikiki is a heartbreaking drama written and directed by Christopher Kahunahana. Set in arguably one of the most beautiful places in the world, Kahunahana’s story shows another side filled with grief, loss and fading hope.
However, it also shows the side of life in what really matters. As Kea starts to slowly lose everything that she holds close to her, her bond with the homeless Wo (Peter Shinkoda) starts to bring out a part of her that perhaps had long been lost. Reminded of past trauma involving her grandma, Kea starts to see the world around her in a different way.
She sees that her life is slowly becoming something like Wo’s and a part of her starts to embrace that shocking eventuality. A reflection of what is really happening in daily life in such a place as Hawai’i relies so heavily on tourism.
Thinking about her grandmother and how she taught her about her heritage, Kea mourns for her loss and feels as if it’s not only her life, but her home which has been lost. Only when she hits rock bottom does she see what her island has become.
Zalopany’s performance is what drives the film and the audience can feel her pain all the way through. Being side-kicked with the silent Wo, who has gone through everything and still come out alive, perhaps reminding the audience of how lucky they are. Beautifully shot and superbly acted, Waikiki reminds us how fragile the balance of life can be.
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