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The Daughter (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

The Daughter

The Daughter


Starring Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Anna Torv, Miranda Otto, Odessa Young, Nicholas Hope, Richard Sutherland, Robert Menzies, Eden Falk, Gareth Davies, Wilson Moore, Ivy Mak, Kate Box, Nicola Frew, Sara West, Jessie Cacchillo, David Peterson, Steve Rodgers, Jackie Spicer, Ann Furlan, Danielle Blakey and Shelia Kumar.

Screenplay by Simon Stone.

Directed by Simon Stone.

Distributed by Kino Lorber.  94 minutes.  Not Rated.

The sins of the parents revisiting the children is a common theme in art, and it is well illustrated in this devastating (if just slightly soap opera-ish) Australian film.  In The Daughter, the acts of a self-absorbed businessman in a small Australian mill town end up having repercussions which destroy three generations of two separate families.

The film, which is loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, revolves around Henry (Geoffrey Rush), a successful businessman who has to close down the local mill, putting most of the townsmen out of work.  Henry is also just about to marry the latest in a series of much-younger former housekeepers (Anna Torv).  He is throwing a huge wedding celebration, and invites his semi-estranged son Christian (Paul Schneider) to fly over from the United States.

The patriarch of the other family is Walter (Sam Neill).  Walter had been Henry’s partner, but ended up going to jail for several years (on a charge which is left vague, but it appears that at least part of his crime was covering up for Henry’s misdeeds).  He and his son Oliver (Ewen Leslie) were left jobless when the mill closed down, but they were finally getting their lives together when Henry and his son reenter their lives because of the wedding.  This reconnection leads to some earth-shaking revelations about Oliver’s wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young).

Christian and Oliver had been best friends as kids, but lost touch with each other years earlier.  They rekindle their friendship, going out drinking way too much, sharing their problems and triumphs over the years.  It does not take long for Oliver to see that Christian is starting to spin out of control in his life, but he does not realize how vitally that will eventually affect him.

Christian not only holds deep seeded resentments towards his father, who he blames for his mother’s death, but is also in the middle of a very ugly break up with his own wife.  Therefore, when he finds a deeply buried secret between the two families, he makes it his own mission to get the information out, not totally understanding the implications and not caring who it will hurt.  When he forces the secret out of the dark and into the light, he basically explodes his old friend’s life and family.

Even people who are truly innocent, like Oliver and particularly Hedvig, get dragged down into the secret, and their lives will never be the same again.

It’s a shocking and sad story.

However, honestly, some points don’t totally ring true.  I still don’t completely buy Oliver’s rapt determination to expose a secret that people have begged him not to share, knowing the damage that it will undoubtedly cause.  In certain ways, Henry comes off as more honorable and caring than his son, who just seems to want to torch everything, consequences be damned.

However, the film is sumptuously shot, and full of smart performances.  Rush and Neill, probably the best known actors here, wisely downplay their roles as the two patriarchs, allowing the younger actors to shine.  Leslie is particularly fine as a basically good man whose life is destroyed by the revelations.

The Daughter is not a light film.  Much like the town it assays, the movie is a bit cold, murky, and often joyless.  That said, it is a wise, memorable and eventually heartbreaking tale.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: January 27, 2017.

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