The Daughter

The Daughter is an engaging drama with solid build-up. And then it pops like a soap bubble.

Based on The Duck by playwright Simon Stone, The Daughter is an Australian drama that begins as a mystery-thriller. The story concerns two families who have known each other for a long time. They also have one too many skeletons in the closets that serve as one too many secrets in the narrative.

Set somewhere in New South Wales, the film begins with a shotgun fired in the woods followed by the closure of a timber mill. Workers are outraged and all owner Henry (gloomy Geoffrey Rush) can do is offer a gloomy apology. One of the layoffs is Oliver (Ewen Leslie) who has a wife Charlotte (Miranda Otto), and teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young) who becomes the central and titular character. They are a happy middle-class family living with Oliver’s dad Walter (Sam Neil). With Henry set to marry his housemaid (some 30 years his junior), his son Christian (Paul Schneider) arrives from the United States. Christian exiled himself to the US after his American mother killed herself. When Oliver bumps into Christian, they are two peas in a pod, like the good old days before the family tragedy. But on and off the wagon, Christian turns out to be an oddball and Stone’s plot device meant to wreak chaos in the third act. After finally confronting his father, Christian learns why his mother killed herself. But now that he knows, he can’t keep his mouth shut.

Up until Christian spills the beans, The Daughter is an engaging drama with solid buildup of brooding atmosphere and the premonition that something bad is going to happen. The timber mill closure and a duck shot at the beginning (but not killed) are used as allegories to induce an emotional upswing that comes in effect later. Tensions rise between Christian and everyone else. Meanwhile, Hedvig has morality issues with her boyfriend from school. And all of a sudden we are dealing with various questions on virginity, infidelity, and paternity.

Stone’s build up is remarkable and the best part of the film. It’s like the slow alignment of celestial bodies often seen as a bad omen. Then, we are given the reveal – an eclipse that turns out to be a brightly colored soap bubble, where soap is the key word. The bubble bursts and everything falls apart, soggy and wet, resulting in family feuds, bloodline squabbles, and a duck with a broken wing. Perhaps something like a Danielle Steel novel, which I hear are mushy stories that are slippery and wet. Like soap. 

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.