Eleven-year old Toss (Fiona Kay) lives on a remote farm. When her father dies in an accident, bearded stranger Ethan (Frank Whitten) arrives on the farm. Toss fears him and is confused when he and her mother become lovers. But it's through Ethan that Toss comes to terms with her father’s death, and the first stirrings of womanhood. Vincent Ward’s multi award-winning debut feature was the first New Zealand film invited to compete at the Cannes Film Festival. LA Times writer Kevin Thomas was among many critics to praise it; he called Vigil "a work of awesome beauty".
(Ward) has created an extraordinary visual and psychological experience, a work of awesome beauty at once mystical and earthy, robust and eerie. It is screen poetry of the utmost rigor, achieving maximum effects from minimal means.– Reviewer Kevin Thomas in The Los Angeles Times, 14 August 1986
Made with funding from the NZ Film Commission and the Film Investment Corporation of New Zealand