The story follows a man who returns home to discover a long-buried family secret, and whose attempts to put things right threaten the lives of those he left home years before.
Australian drama ‘The Daughter’, based on a Henrik Ibsen novel, is one of the finest showcases of acting performances I’ve seen in some time, which makes it all the more disappointing that the film is almost relentlessly dark. To be clear, I’ve nothing against a film that leans this way, but ‘The Daughter’ is a film that really would benefit from some more levity to balance out the darkness. It concerns a man, Christian (Paul Schneider), who returns home to the small mining town he grew up in to celebrate his father’s wedding. From the outset it’s clear there are troubles hidden in the past and the majority of the film is about gradually revealing these secrets and surveying the impact on the characters. In a relatively short runtime, director Simon Stone develops his characters superbly, aided by his superb cast.
I’ve rarely seen a film where I’ve been blown away by so many performances and it’s difficult to pick a standout. The majority of the main characters get a ‘moment’ and they all absolutely nail it, which is to be expected from seasoned professionals like Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neill, but I was particularly impressed with Paul Schneider who I’d only really previously known from a short lived role in the US comedy ‘Parks and Recreation’. Most of the strongest moments come as secrets are revealed and Stone does a good job of balancing these out, although its difficult to get beyond a script that is undoubtedly built around these big reveals. The main story is heartwrenching and well played by all the performers but I often found more to enjoy in the subtext about these characters and their pasts. One of the first sequences shows Henry (Geoffrey Rush) announcing the closure of a mining plant where a couple of the other characters work, and this reverberates throughout the town in an environment where other jobs are hard to come by. Henry lives extravagantly with his young wife to be (Anna Torv – perhaps the only core cast member to be underserved), and there’s clear resentment with the rest of the townsfolk and with his son Christian in particular. Christian and Oliver (Ewen Leslie) were childhood friends and I found the scenes between the two very powerful, as two men who have drifted in different directions but still care a lot for each other, despite various issues between their families. Both men deliver powerhouse performances.
‘The Daughter’ is very well made, with outstanding performances and a sharp script, but somewhere along the way it’s reveals start to feel a little formulaic and it could have benefited from a slightly lighter tone to balance against the harshness of the story’s outcome.
Directed By: Simon Stone
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Miranda Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young and Sam Neill