No Ordinary Sheila

1hr 38mins | Rated G

Starring: Sheila Natusch, Hugh McDonald

"Her many passions and interests, generous spirit and lovely sense of humour, will leave you inspired, uplifted and probably moved."
NZ Herald

If you haven't heard of, or met Sheila Natusch, then prepare to make the acquaintance of one of the most fascinating, storied, admirable and occasionally hilarious individuals you will ever have the pleasure of meeting.

Until recently, Sheila lived in Wellington's Owhiro Bay. She moved there in the 1950s, from a life already full of triumph and adventure in the South Island and especially on Rakiura (Stewart Island), where Sheila was born and raised.

Sheila was a star in several disciplines connected with the sciences and arts. She was a close friend to Janet Frame and probably the standout student of her generation at Otago University. In no particular order, she devoured biology, astronomy, geology, became a very accomplished artist, an illustrator and author of "30 or 40" books, an ardent conservationist, explorer and a general all 'round fabulous human being.

No Ordinary Sheila (what else could you call this film?) is director Hugh Macdonald's biopic of his nonagenarian cousin. The film weaves together an interview with RNZ's Kim Hill, plenty of archival footage, Sheila's own paintings and drawings and some beautifully shot contemporary scenes into a mostly very pleasing whole.

If I were a churl, maybe I'd say No Ordinary Sheila could have used a slightly less indulgent sensibility in the edit, and maybe a paring back of the ever-so-slightly overwritten voiceover wouldn't have hurt. But nothing about this film will get in the way of your admiration and occasional astonishment at Sheila's accomplishments and life.

No Ordinary Sheila is a love letter to a woman, several landscapes and a generation, and – much like Sheila herself – is one of those "they don't make 'em like that anymore" pieces of work that can't help but leave you smiling. Nice one.

The Dominion Post