Movie title: The Daughter
Director: Simon Stone
Release: March 2016
The Daughter opens with a single gunshot that shatters the beauty of the misty rural panorama —a scene so often used in cinema, a niggling sense of cliché sets in. An injured wild duck is rescued, and with its broken wing and determination to fly again, becomes a metaphor for the emotional carnage that lies ahead.
Inspired by director Simon Stone’s 2011 stage adaptation of the 1884 play The Wild Duck, by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, The Daughter is a family saga on a grand scale. The play’s original themes of lies, betrayal and regret survive the transformation to the other side of the world more than a century later; however the dramatic conflict at times slips into melodrama.
On the eve of his second marriage, aloof timber miller Henry (Geoffrey Rush) shuts down his mill, putting most of the town’s residents out of work. This coincides with the return of his alcoholic adult son Christian (Paul Schneider) who is determined to revenge his father’s sins, and in doing so, unravels the life of his childhood friend Oliver (Ewan Leslie).
There are skeletons in closets all through this timber town and the miserable Christian drags them out, one after the other. At the centre of the inevitable implosion is Oliver’s teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young) who is navigating her own coming of age as her family falls apart. She seeks solace in her connection with the injured duck, which she and her grandfather Walter (Sam Neill) are nursing back to health.
The tension explodes at a drunken wedding brawl – a familiar Australian cinema tradition – when Oliver’s wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto) admits her affair and the extent of the betrayal.
The film’s narrative is at times predictable, however it is saved by the quality cast – in particular the emotional scenes between Oliver and Charlotte, and the extraordinary performance from Young as Hedvig tries desperately to protect her family.
Review by Jane O’Connell, 13th April 2016
Dendy Cinema, Circular Quay