TIFF 2015 Review: The Daughter
“It’s as old as the hills,” says one character to another in The Daughter, referring to a recent familial revelation that isn’t particularly shocking; to them, or the audience. A trip home for Christian (Paul Schneider) begins a chaotic turn for three generations across two families in a small, ever-cloudy town.
His return to New South Wales comes at the behest of his father Henry (Geoffrey Rush), whose marriage to a much younger woman is one of many changing relationships here. Christian isn’t with his girlfriend who stays behind, but reunites with his best friend Oliver, who recently was laid off from his factory job by a remorseful, reluctant Henry.
Christian would rather spend time with Oliver than his father, but a troubled relationship with alcohol presents a problem. Meanwhile, Oliver’s daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young, breaking out) is an embodiment of exuberance, curiosity, and naiveté, all of which offers excitement and uncertainty. She provides amusement to the audience, working with her grandfather (Sam Neill) to create a sanctuary for wounded animals while joking around with her loving parents.
Intimate and atmospheric, this ponderous tale bounces around from character to character, never quite sure on whom to place the focus. There is tension and moments of great pause, yes, but unfulfilled potential ultimately lingers.
Director Simon Stone works hard at bringing to life a familiar story inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, efficiently navigating relationships with far more showing than telling. Still, even those not familiar with the source material won’t be surprised as the revelations and confrontations unearthed. Not that cunning is necessary, but impressive performances all around, especially by Ms. Young, only take The Daughter so far.