Past haunts the fu­ture

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch

THE DAUGH­TER ( M)

Di­rec­tor: Si­mon Stone ( fea­ture de­but) Star­ring: Paul Schneider, Ewen Les­lie, Ge­of­frey Rush, Mi­randa Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill Ver­dict: The value of fam­ily comes at a price

DEL­I­CATELY un­set­tling and de­cid­edly af­fect­ing in equal mea­sure, this well- acted Aus­tralian drama is sure to di­vide au­di­ences in com­ing weeks.

If more view­ers rule in favour of the movie than against it – as I sus­pect they will, al­beit by a close mar­gin – then most plau­dits must go to The Daugh­ter’s first- time wri­ter­di­rec­tor Si­mon Stone.

In spite of the mod­er­ately po­lar­is­ing re­sults achieved on- screen, this rad­i­cal remix of the Hen­rik Ib­sen play The Wild Duck ( which Stone first took to the stage to great ac­claim five years ago) an­nounces the ar­rival of an as­sured new film­mak­ing tal­ent.

The set­ting is an un­named log­ging town, some­where up­coun­try. The owner of the lo­cal mill – which is the prin­ci­pal em­ployer in the re­gion – has an­nounced his busi­ness will be clos­ing im­me­di­ately.

Henry Neil­son ( Ge­of­frey Rush) seems slightly dis­con­nected to the de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fect his de­ci­sion will have on the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity.

The rea­son why grad­u­ally be­comes ap­par­ent: Henry is about to marry a much younger woman, Anna ( Anna Torv), his for­mer house­keeper. Just ahead of the big day, Henry has in­vited his es­tranged son Chris­tian ( Paul Schneider) back into the fam­ily fold to serve as best man.

Though now very much an Amer­i­can – hav­ing lived in the States most of his adult life – Chris­tian was born and raised on his father’s patch. With his own per­sonal life re­cently up­ended on the same scale as that of Henry’s work­ers, Chris­tian ar­rives home with some se­ri­ous, scar­ring scores to set­tle.

The most jar­ring reper­cus­sions of Chris­tian’s ac­tions will be felt by the im­me­di­ate fam­ily of his child­hood best friend, Oliver ( Ewen Les­lie).

A glass- half- full kind of guy, Oliver has taken his sud­den sack­ing by Henry in his stride. His wife Char­lotte ( Mi­randa Otto) still has a job teach­ing at the lo­cal school, and the cou­ple’s only child, 15- year- old Hed­vig ( Odessa Young) is a cru­cial source of in­spi­ra­tion and sup­port to them both.

How­ever, by the day of Henry and Anna’s wed­ding, Chris­tian’s mer­cu­rial re- en­try into Oliver’s life trig­gers an in­ci­dent that could re­sult in a loss far more dev­as­tat­ing than just a job at the mill.

A film as qui­etly ( and of­ten, mod­estly) mounted as The Daugh­ter means that it will not be cater­ing to a ma­jor­ity of tastes.

For the ex­pe­ri­ence to achieve max­i­mum im­pact, the viewer has to make some ef­fort to de­code the con­flict­ing mo­ti­va­tions of a di­verse and in­trigu­ing ar­ray of char­ac­ters.

If you do find your­self in dif­fi­culty forg­ing a di­rect con­nec­tion with events as they un­fold on- screen, the ef­fort­lessly nat­u­ral and un­forced chem­istry be­tween Les­lie and Young is well worth fo­cus­ing on.

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