The Daughter
dir-scr Simon Stone
prd Jan Chapman, Nicole O'Donohue
with Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Sam Neill, Miranda Otto, Odessa Young, Anna Torv, Wilson Moore, Ivy Mak, Nicholas Hope, Kate Box, Sara West
release Aus 6.May.16, UK 27.May.16
15/Australia 1h36
The Daughter
Family dynamic: Leslie, Young and Neill

rush schneider otto
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Daughter Based on Henrik Ibsen's play The Wild Duck, this Australian drama is beautifully shot and performed with raw honesty by an excellent cast. It's earthy and engaging, and increasingly wrenching as it sends its characters through a series of encounters and revelations that push them to the brink.

Christian (Schneider) is home in rural Australia for the marriage of his aloof father Henry (Rush) to a woman (Torv) half his age. On arrival, Christian reconnects with his lifelong pal Oliver (Leslie), who lives on his family farm with his wife Charlotte (Otto), their teen daughter Hedvig (Young) and his father Walter (Neill). With his marriage to Grace (Mak) dissolving, Christian finds it difficult to celebrate his father's wedding. Even worse is a bit of history that emerges to slowly unravel the relationships between all of these people.

About the only mistake Stone makes is to rename the story in a way that's both annoyingly generic and frustratingly leading. Otherwise, he has adapted Ibsen's work to make it powerfully contemporary, drawing on resonant themes while providing space for all of the characters to have full inner lives that extend and overlap in provocative ways. The interconnections between these people are fascinating, and the shifting intensity adds a level of startling urgency as well. It's easy to imagine everyone in the audience identifying with one of these people, which will lead to lively post-screening discussions.

The film is anchored by four skilfully open-handed performances. Leslie infuses all of his scenes with cheeky energy that transitions stunningly into a series of shattering emotions. Opposite him, the ace veteran Otto and the shining newcomer Young provide considerable weight. As a family unit with Neill, these three generations of characters carry a serious wallop, especially in the film's double-whammy climax. Alongside them, Schneider brings out his own truthful emotional response, while Rush glides along, oddly removed from the fallout of his actions (which include shooting and injuring a wild duck).

Stone keeps the film's focus intimate, concentrating on the closeness between a small group of people in a rural location. This Australian setting is vividly created with a clever Scandinavian slant, from logging mills to isolated farmhouses that place physical distance between people. It's an impeccably crafted film that expertly develops an almost overpowering emotional arc. Some viewers may find that to be a bit too much, even though the lingering feelings are eerily cathartic.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 24.Feb.16

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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall