Director Simon Stone Screenwriter Simon Stone Starring: Geoffrey Rush,Paul Schneider, Sam Neil, Ewen Leslie, Miranda Otto, Odessa Young Country Of Origin Australia Running Time 100 mins
Production Company Screen NSW
Category: Official Competition
A mother’s love is often written about. Pages upon pages of unconditional, unwavering love…but what about that of the father. This is one of the components of Simon Stone’s wonderful Australian drama. Looking at how the temperaments of two very different fathers has shaped those around them, and how they cope when it all collapses in.
Taking inspiration from Henrik Ibsens ‘The Wild Duck’ this film deals with the fallout of deeply rooted class divisions in a fairly rural town in Australia. Despite its rooting in 19th century storytelling this film is decidedly fresh and modern, forcing the audience to recognise the issues that are still ever present today; unemployment, class division and the consequences of human sin.
Although given less screen time, the entire plot focusses around Henry (played by the ever marvellous Geoffrey Rush). He is the root of all the problems in the town and the return of his part time alcoholic son is the catalyst for all destruction. Henry is (or was) the owner of the timber mill in the town, where most of the male residence work. The closure of this mill at the very beginning of the film sets the divide immediately, Henry and his money on one side and Oliver (husband, father, son and all round great guy) placed firmly on the other side. Oliver (Ewen Leslie) cares for his family, wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and daughter Hedvig, who is dealing with her own burgeoning womanhood in parallel to the explosive family secrets that unfold. When Christian (Paul Schneider), Henry’s son and old school pal of Oliver, comes back to town the web weaved is even more tangled and truths begin to be unearthed and lives are changed forever.
Oliver is an incredibly likeable character from the off set. He’s a mans man, burly and beer swigging, whilst still tender toward to his family. The kind of chap who loves a couple drinks with the guys, but would staunchly do anything and everything for those he loved. We like him, we root for him, which is why when he feels pain we feel pain.
However, no one character shines brighter than the other; the story is everyones for the taking as everyone deals with their own hurt and anguish. Although that’s not to say some performances aren’t worth more note than others. Odessa Young as Hedvig is stunning in a role that could have been far more melodramatic and crass. She had a magnificent ability to appear both caged and transparent with her feelings all at once. She is one to look out for. Another stand out for me was Sam Neil as grampa Walter, Oliver’s father. His devotion to his family, and kindness, is shown through the devotion to the animals he rescue – one of which is a duck at the very beginning that was shot and wounded by Henry at the beginning of the film, bringing the characters together full circle and drawing the lines between good and bad.
The aesthetic of the movie contributes to the emotions pouring out the characters. As Hegvig walks through the misty New South Wales forest, her angst rises and swells inside of her. Blues, purples and emeralds fill the screen enhancing this underlying somber mood. The colours of the film seem desaturated – drained of its life reflecting the town that had been stripped of its purpose. The bold editing style, focussing on sound bridges, shifting the dialogues and images within each scene, creates a powerful distressing energy, bringing greater meaning to both sound and visuals but for distinctly different reasons. I find Australian films such as this terribly appealing. They have a grainy passion about them, much like some British films. Perhaps they feel familiar making them easier to warm to. Perhaps they are made with compassion, for praise and not for dollar signs.
Overall it showed a certain normality to complicated, chaotic life. THE DAUGHTER is one of those beautiful, tragic films that wouldn’t need to say much to say a lot. But when this film talks it sings.