CAPSULE: With this Australian production, stage director Simon Stone directs his first feature film, adapting his own modernization and re-imagining of Henrik Ibsen's "The Wild Duck." The story is of a man who returns to his home to find the key to many locked family secrets. The story might easily have settled into melodrama, but it manages to keep its head above water. Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, and Miranda Otto star. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Just in case there was any question of what story is being told, we see a wild duck being shot and injured in the first shots of the film. Writer/director Simon Stone is updating Henrik Ibsen's 1884 play, "The Wild Duck." One of the essential weaknesses of the film is that in updating the original Stone had to create too many characters for the viewer to keep straight. Watching the film I felt I could have used a list of characters to keep them all straight and to help sort their relationships. Stone has made a film that is harder to follow than the original play it was based on.
An Australian town--never named--lives in the shadow of one man. The town lives or dies under the control of Henry Nielsen (played by Geoffrey Rush) who owns the lumber mill that has been the lifeblood of the town. Just at the moment the mill and the town are both dying. The mill has lost its last contract and most of the town has been laid off. Particularly in Henry's shadow is Walter Finch (Sam Neill) who used to be Henry's partner and who went to prison for shady dealing with Henry but for which Henry went unpunished. To contrast his character from that of Henry, Walter maintains a little sanctuary to nurse animals, including the wild duck, back to life.
It is a moment of mixed emotion as Henry is soon to be married to Anna (Anna Tov) his former housekeeper, young enough to be his daughter. Henry's son Christian (Paul Schneider) is returning home from America to attend the wedding. Shocking secrets are about to be revealed. I will not reveal who the real villain is, but of course this is an adaptation of a play by Henrik Ibsen.
In the hands of a director who knew less about how to stage dialog this would have been a bit talky and feel like a lot of soap opera melodrama. Stone takes what could have been taken as exaggeration and leaves it with a realistic feel.
It is not clear why Stone chose to rename this work the nondescript THE DAUGHTER. One would think that among the film's intended audience there would be more marquee value in using the original classic and familiar title. I rate THE DAUGHTER a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. THE DAUGHTER will get its wide release January 27 of this year.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3922816/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_daughter_2015
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper