A new Australian drama titled “The Daughter” tackles a variety of topics. Everything from a small town decimated by the closing of a lumber mill to infidelity, the nature of parent’s relationships to their kids, young love, addiction and class divides are explored but despite the busy schedule of events the film is very focussed.
Loosely based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1884 tragedy “The Wild Duck,” the movie is set in a dying Australian logging town. Christian (Paul Schneider), son of the town’s lumber magnate (Geoffrey Rush), hasn’t been home in years. On the occasion of his father’s wedding to a much younger woman (Anna Torv) Christian brings his swirling mass of daddy issues and personal problems home for the first time since his mother committed suicide.
He reconnects with his best chum from university, Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and jovial but unemployed lumber worker, husband to Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and father to teenager Hedvig, played by Odessa Young. Over the course of the wedding weekend some dangerous truths are revealed, family secrets that threaten to blow families apart and destroy an innocent life.
To be any more specific would do a disservice to director Simon Stone’s storytelling. He skilfully brings together a small group of characters, overlapping their lives to bring them to a devastating conclusion. You won’t leave the theatre with a smile on your face but you’ll exit having seen an uncompromising but engaging look at personal dysfunction.
Naturalistic performances from a who’s who of Australian actors, Rush, Leslie, Otto and Sam Neill—who now plays old cranky grandfather parts—draw the viewer in but it is newcomer Young as Hedwig who is at the center of the action. Leslie has the showiest part but Young’s work gives us a reason to care about the personal politics.
“The Daughter” is a gem, an emotionally affecting film that transcends melodrama to cut to the core of how people react and regret in the face of fidelity and betrayal.