The Daughter – Film Review by Frank L
Directed by Simon Stone
Writers: Henrik Ibsen (play), Simon Stone
Stars: Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Anna Torv
Simon Stone is deeply familiar with Henrik Ibsen’s play “The Wild Duck” having made a stage adaptation of the piece in 2011. He now takes the play and transposes it to New South Wales. Walter (Sam Neill) is the well-heeled owner of a timber mill, which is the economic mainstay of the small town. He is forced to close it down due to economic reasons. Walter makes suitably sympathetic noises to the workforce which includes Oliver (Ewen Leslie), who is married to Charlotte (Miranda Otto) and they have a teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young). They have an idyllic life. He is now forced to find work elsewhere.
Charlotte’s father-in-law Henry (Geoffrey Rush) lives with them, a broken man who has no love for Walter. He looks after damaged animals which need tender loving care. Walter’s most pressing problem is his upcoming second marriage to his much younger housekeeper Anna (Anna Torv). His grown-up son Christian (Paul Schneider) returns from the United States for the wedding. His life has been far from perfect; he has a bust marriage to his credit and is on the dry as a recovering alcoholic. He was a close friend of Oliver in his youth. They meet by chance in the local supermarket and bond again. The pressures of the wedding, the economic uncertainties and the awkward presence of the somewhat unstable Christian combine together as the cocktail which makes a long hidden secret become explosively known. The forces that are unleashed will change the lives of all forever.
While the story is set in New South Wales, it could take place anywhere, where economic pressures are altering the social certainties built up over time. The cast is well balanced and they seamlessly interact together to create the pressure cooker of emotions which gradually intensify. In particular Odessa Young has a difficult and very large part to play as Hedvig which she executes with a remarkable polish for one so young, apparently a mere 17 years of age at the time of shooting. It is beautifully shot with a musical score which assists. In short this is a well-crafted film which is a pleasure to watch.