THE DAUGHTER (Australia/15A/94mins)
Directed by Simon Stone. Starring Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, Anna Tov, Miranda Otto, Paul Schneider, Odessa Young, Ewen Leslie.
THE PLOT: It’s New South Wales, and local mill owner Henry (Rush) is letting his staff know that he’s shutting up shop. It’s more bad news for an already-depressed little town, but not quite enough to stop Henry getting hitched to his glamorous young housekeeper, Anna (Torv). Even if the family dynamic all around them is a tad complicated.
Returning son Christian (Schneider) is happy for his father, and very happy to meet up again with his childhood friend, Oliver (Leslie). Oliver is now married to Henry’s former housekeeper, Charlotte (Otto), and they have a teenage daughter, Hedvig (Young). Oh, and also living with them is Oliver’s father, Walter (Neill), a former business partner of Henry’s.
Got all that? Well, brace yourself for some betrayals. And dark family secrets…
THE VERDICT: This pretty-much-star-studded adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck is directed by Syndney theatre fave Simon Stone, The Daughter marking his debut as a writer/director. Unfortunately, despite the pedigree on both sides of the camera, there’s a distinct air of the first-timer about this admirable but muddled film.
Having already adapted Ibsen’s play for the stage back in 2011 – the production travelling from Sydney to Oslo, Vienna and London – Stone clearly knows his source material here. And he knows that having actors like Sam Neill and Geoffrey Rush up front, there’s going to be at least two people who very much know what they’re doing when the cameras roll.
And, for the most part, ‘The Daughter’ works perfectly well, with not only Neill and Rush delivering believable, engaging performances but the likes of Schneider, Leslie, Torv and Otto all do exactly what it says on the 132-year-old paper. Ultimately though, ‘The Daughter’ is one of those films that’s never quite the sum of its parts.
Review by Paul Byrne

The Daughter
Review by Paul Byrne
3.0Perfectly fine
  • filmbuff2011

    Australian theatre director Simon Stone makes a promising directorial debut with The Daughter, a tale of two families who turn from friends to enemies over the course of the film.

    Christian (Paul Schneider) is returning home to Australia, having lived in America. He’s attending the wedding of his father Henry (Geoffrey Rush) to his younger former housekeeper Anna (Anna Torv). The past still haunts Henry, as he shut down the local mill, driving away families as they sought work elsewhere. The town is now a shadow of its former self. While home, he reconnects with old friend Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and his wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto). Meanwhile, Oliver’s teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young) starts to suspect that a deeply-buried secret between the two families is coming to the surface. A secret that will drive a wedge between the families and rip them apart, with tragic consequences…

    Re-worked by Stone from Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, The Daughter is another typically good quality drama from Australia. In this reviewer’s opinion, Australians rarely make bad films – think of the superb likes of The Proposition, Animal Kingdom or Lantana. The latter is worth mentioning here, as it also featured Rush and was about families with deeply-buried secrets. With The Daughter, Stone has fashioned his own re-working into a slow-burning tale of the consequences of a single thoughtless action that has repercussions for the future of these two families.

    Finely acted by a quality cast that also includes Sam Neill, the film focuses on the inter-personal relationships of the two families, as viewed through the eyes of Christian and, at times, Hedvig. Like many teenagers, she feels lost with one foot in the adult world and one foot in the world of teenage life. Young gives a very affecting performance. The story takes quite a while to get going, so it requires some patience to get back to the single gun shot we hear over misty mountains in the opening scene. Stick with it though and you’ll be rewarded with a quietly devastating ending which packs a punch. For anyone interested in Australian cinema and slow-burn dramas with a sting in their tail, then The Daughter comes recommended. ***