The Daughter

In the last days of a dying logging town, Christian returns to his family home for his father Henry’s wedding. While home, Christian reconnects with his childhood friend Oliver, who has stayed in town working at Henry’s timber mill and is now out of a job. As Christian gets to know Oliver’s wife Charlotte, daughter Hedvig, and father Walter, he discovers a secret that could tear Oliver’s family apart.

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  • ★★★★½ review by Martin28 on Letterboxd

    If you can say one good thing about this movie it's that the performances are masterclass! Sam Neill has never been this good in anything and newcomer Odessa Young is a serious young talent to watch out for in future.

    But here's the thing, I know it's not a masterpiece whirlwind of dramatic nuance or game-changing cinematic merit, but it has everything I was looking to see. First and foremost, it reminded me of Louder Than Bombs in how it portrayed the sort of muted family dynamic. The people in this movie feel like they have history, there's a relationship and connection which feels organic and say what you will about the story, the characters are as authentic as you'll find in any cinematic work of naturalism.

    Now the story, from what I've read people are upset it's too predictable. Well, I myself had the movie figured out within 20 minutes with a little bit of brain power. But by the third act it occurred to me, this film is not overtly relying on a clever plot twist and it knows that, it's strategically hoping we are connected enough with these characters to rely on the gravity of what it will all mean if everything should crumble to the ground. This film masterfully uses suspense to heighten the possibly factor.

    My only real criticisms are Paul Schneider whose acting is a detriment to the entire film. Simply awful overacting on his part with not a single hint of subtlety in a role which I believe a lesser-know actor could've shined through in. And the jarring use of sound editing which did nothing for me but disorient how I saw things.

    I still think this is a worth the high star rating and worth seeing.

  • ★★★★ review by Cogerson on Letterboxd

    Why I watched this one? DVD cover looked interesting....plus a combo of Sam Neill and Geoffrey Rush....count me in.

    What is this one about? The story follows a man (Paul Schneider) who returns home to discover a long-buried family secret, and whose attempts to put things right threaten the lives of those he left home years before.

    My thoughts on this one? A movie that builds and builds momentum until an emotional conclusion. Top notch performances from Neill, Rush, Schneider, Miranda Otto and Ewen Leslie (unknown to me). But Odessa Young (also unknown to me) as the daughter steals the show. She gives an incredible emotional performance. I will be thinking about her character for a very long time. I went from feeling sorry for Schneider's character to absolutely despising him in less than 90 minutes. This unknown gem is worth checking out.

  • ★★★★★ review by Jess Knipping on Letterboxd

    Like Tears in Rain

    “Well it’s not the life I expected when it was nineteen. But I’m lucky.”

    — Oliver Finch, The Daughter (2016)

    This is one amazing Australian drama. It treats every character as a person, every action is rational which allows you to become disappointed and angry at these characters for their actions. The world that has been set up in The Daughter is real, the dynamics are real, their reactions to situations are real, and their inability to see their own flaws is so, so real.

    Set around Christian (Paul Schneider) coming back to the mill town for his father's (Henry played by Geoffrey Rush) wedding to his 31 year old fiancé Anna (Anna Torv). He has not been back for over 16 years as he left after his mother committed suicide. Henry runs a forestry mill that has just had to shut down due to lack of demand so many families are having to pack up and move on which leaves the town feeling disconnected, abandoned and uncertain—and this is only days after the announcement.

    Oliver Finch (Ewen Leslie) and his family have been affected by the closure as they may have to think about moving on as his wife, Charlotte's (Miranda Otto) teaching job is not enough to cover the bills. They have a daughter, Hedvig (Odessa Young) and his father, Walter (Sam Neill) lives out in the shed after being released from prison over fraud. Oliver and Christian used to be best mates back in university so when Christian comes back into town he has made the most of catching up with his old friend.

    There is a lot to set up in this film but it never feels like they are placing the pawns and knights into place on the board. What we get to see is a window into these characters lives from Hedvig romancing her boyfriend, Oliver and Christian rekindling their relationship, Walter looking after birds in his forest, and slowly unravelling how all the pieces on the board all connect to a hidden truth.

    With a stellar cast—and a criminal minimal use of the amazing Anna Torv—everyone shines in this film, but Ewen Leslie really stands out. I haven't seen him in anything else so him almost outshining everyone is a pleasant surprise. He is infectious on screen and every line and moment are a treat. I also think this is Sam Neill's best work in a long while—yes, even better than Hunt for the Wilderpeople—and I love Odessa as Hedvig, she is just a joy to watch on the screen.

    I could watch this movie over and over again, it is magical in how it creates such a small story into something of such greatness. This all comes down to the amazing cast, great screenplay, beautiful cinematography, and direction; they all work here. So hats off to Simon Stone as he has produced my favourite film of the year so far.

    My review originally posted HERE

  • ★★★½ review by Doug Dillaman on Letterboxd

    Simon Stone is a first-time writer and director (of features, anyway: he did a bit in THE TURNING), and THE DAUGHTER betrays the latter than the former. While the script has a few business issues (some elisions between scenes had me shaking my head), it's largely strong, with classical drama bones (didn't know it was based on an Ibsen play til the closing credits but it doesn't surprise me in the slightest), and a lived-in feel to individual scenes that didn't make them feel overdetermined, even if the central metaphor of the duck is more than a bit heavy-handed (albeit, of course, imported from Ibsen).

    Craftwise, it feels a bit like a first film where either the director wants to throw everything in or lets his collaborators try everything. Photographically we get Dardennes-head follows, a camera literally attached to a duck cage, beautiful scenic wides, mannered static wide shots with bizarre framing, ostentatious handheld work - and I think that's all just in the first five minutes; meanwhile, editorially, we have an intense condensation, where lines appear under takes with the actor not speaking the line, an intriguing tactic slightly undermined by the somewhat poor sound (I'm betting everyone was on lapel mics and they didn't do any ADR.) The score, meanwhile, largely exists to remind us that This Is A Very Sad Drama. None of these choices are ruinous, really, and on occasion they're strikingly exciting, but they do make one appreciate how stripped-back and simple Farhadi's films *feel* by comparison.

    If it's a split decision between script and craft, the swing vote, then, goes to the superlative performances. MVP for me is a heretofore unknown-to-me Ewen Leslie, who I apparently saw in SLEEPING BEAUTY but don't recall, and who more than holds his own against Miranda Otto, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush, and Paul Schneider, to say nothing of young Odessa Young as the titular daughter, who pulls off a lot of very tricky scenes with aplomb. I'm never going to be the guy who raves uncontrollably about classically-influenced dramas, but this is a pretty darn good one.

  • ★★★★ review by manousos on Letterboxd

    The Daughter is a first film and one of the freshest narrative films out of Australia in a while. Apparently inspired by a successful touring company of Henryk Ibsen's The Wild Duck in Australia it takes a good half hour before you manage to cut through the oblique method of storytelling Simon Stone has chosen to tell his tale of the convolutions of two families and a whole town dominated by a reckless patriarch played by Geoffrey Rush. But once all those relations are established a family melodrama plays itself out that is of Sophoclean/Freudian proportions, though much is made of the fact that Ibsen was one of the first writers to examine the repression of women among the middle classes. Rush is surrounded by a wonderful cast that includes Ewen Leslie and Paul Schneider who play childhood friends that end up at odds with each other 30 years later. Sam Neill is a man haunted by the knowledge of indiscretions around him that are confused by the onset of dementia. Stone's oblique style is the perfect showcase for this tragic and tormented tale.

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