In My Fatherís Den
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Brad McGann
with Matthew MacFadyen, Emily Barclay, Miranda Otto, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer, Jimmy Keen, Vicky Haughton, Geoffrey Dolan, Antony Starr, Saengtip Kirk, Vanessa Riddell, Matthew Chamberlain
release NZ 7.Oct.04, UK 17.Jun.05
04/NZ Optimum 2h06

Who's your daddy? MacFadyen and Barclay

macfadyen otto

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In My Father's Den This strong Kiwi film is powerfully involving, even if it's also rather heavy-going and sneaky. Solid performances help carry us through the story, even though we don't really find out what's going on until the very end.

After abandoning his rural New Zealand hometown 17 years ago, world-renowned journalist Paul (MacFadyen) returns for his father's funeral. His brother and sister-in-law Andrew and Penny (Moy and Otto) are shocked to see him. And Paul discovers that his former flame (Rimmer) has a 16-year-old daughter (Barclay), who shows innate skill as a writer. He puts two and two together: does he really have a daughter? But this is only the first hint of a whole platoon of skeletons that are about to come tumbling out of various closets.

There's a muted, powerfully strained tone to this film that really captures the emotions these people are repressing. None of them are willing to face up to truths about their past and present, and writer-director McGann continually drops hints that "something happened" to cause all of this dysfunction. Although he infuriatingly withholds most of the information until the very end. Out-of-sequence editing, artful flashbacks and elusive camerawork keep us at arm's length from the awful truth. This works to draw us into the mystery, but it also alienates and frustrates us as the story refuses to properly unfold. And combined with the sullen atmosphere, it's not always easy to watch.

Performances are solid and revelatory. MacFadyen is especially good--piercing and muddled at the same time, engaging in all kinds of awkward interaction, most of which is completely misunderstood. Rimmer and Otto are also superb in slightly underwritten roles. The entire cast could have used a bit of realistic light relief in the script; the point is that no one really talks to each other, which is intriguing and meaningful, and yet they also fail to interact even on more superficial levels. It's just so serious and intense--even the wacky cow-pie fight is underscored with sadness. But as a result, this thoughtful, raw film has a heart-rending kick. Several of them, actually.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 24.Mar.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... In My Father's Den Sue Corley, Coral Springs, Florida: 5/5 "This was a wonderfully acted and directed film which held my interest and had a stunning and unexpected ending. I had to watch it on my computer on Region 2 DVD because it has been decided not to release it to theaters, even though it received glowing reviews and many awards. This is the real shame, that so many will not have the opportunity to see such a fine production on the big screen." (19.Aug.06)
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall