To Dad With Love

A Tribute to a Beloved Father

Film review: The Girl on the Train


Inside The Girl on the Train, a taut psychological thriller involving homicide and alcoholism, is an excruciating drama in which the lives of three women are strung together in a singular experience, their desires and memories and hopes interwoven into a tapestry of indignation and strength.

Much of the precision is etched on the eloquent face of Emily Blunt who plays Rachel, 30-something, unable to control her drinking, and struggling, when we meet her, with a marital break-up.

Despite having lost her job, Rachel commutes each day to the city on a train that passes by a leafy suburb. Every day she rides on that train; and every day she finds herself observing a woman on a balcony facing the railway track. Together with the man of the house, they represent to Rachel “the embodiment of true love”.

Thing is, Rachel used to live two blocks away in a property where her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux), is now raising a family with his new wife, Anna (Rebecca Ferguson).

Bruised still by the betrayal she suffered, Rachel is not only bitter but painfully self-righteous about conjugal fidelity. So, when she spies the object of her daily fixation kissing another lover on the porch, the inebriated loner decides to take it upon herself to right a potential wrong.

The next day a female resident of the area — Rachel learns that her name is Megan (Haley Bennett) — is reported to be missing. And soon, Megan’s half-decomposed body is found buried in the woods.

Based on a wildly popular novel by Paula Hawkins the film moves back and forth through different time-frames (six months ago, today, last Friday, one week ago, etc.) and dwells by turns upon the various perspectives of our three heroines.

Waking from a black-out with a bloodied temple in her bathroom, Rachel is nearly oblivious to what had transpired. She introduces herself to Megan’s husband, Scott (Luke Evans), with whom attempts are made to incriminate the paramour, Dr Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez), Megan’s psychotherapist — and her newest passion, or distraction. Meanwhile, living under a pall of unsolved crime, all the time trying to protect herself and her baby from what she perceives as constant harassment by Rachel, Anna becomes suspicious of Tom’s efforts to defend his former wife.

In a performance luminous against the complex web of suspense and intrigue, Blunt lets Rachel’s bewilderment and emptiness echo out of hollow eyes ringed in shadows of smudged mascara. Her wan complexion and crusty lips locate the self-doubt that grips one’s consciousness in the aftermath of a booze-infused episode.

Towards the end of the film, from Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay, directed by Tate Taylor, we are reminded of the ease with which manipulation could make its way through the sodden flesh of vulnerability.

But above all, The Girl on the Train, gives voice arguably to the often-unheard and presents it in the threads of a gauzy and radiant cinematic fabric.

“I am not the girl I used to be, ” thinks Rachel to herself at the movie’s close, and that same line has a significantly different meaning from when it was voiced-over at the picture’s start.


Theatre review: Parley!


The meaning of the title is as ambiguous as its utterers’ anonymity. In Parley! Ant and Pea are lost at sea on a boat with a broken compass and no food. As hopes for a future fade in the salt-water air of desolation the duo annoy each other with failed attempts at getting along. Recrimination develops and, despite the proximity, there appears to be room for secrets that, even on unravelling, are desperately held through evasions.

Painful silences alternate with snatches of conciliation and delicate farce. Pea and Ant’s yearning and boredom and despair become increasingly more intense as mind and physical games play themselves out.

Harley Hefford’s staging of the piece by Elena Larkin and Rachael Basselink distils the superficial quality of the characters’ interactions by delineating outside and inner selves through the introduction of puppets fashioned in their likeness.

There are no doubt strong elements of Beckett’s Endgame and Waiting for Godot: clever paradoxes in deceptively imbecilic lines, chronic contemplation of death, slow burn of an excruciating relationship. We see the way in which wallowing in their own claustrophobia one can begin to lose memory and knowledge of the world around them.

Larkin and Basselink make a superb cast. Basselink’s Pea, while finding herself trapped in their predicament, insists on being dour in a state of limbo, refusing Ant’s overtures of intimacy, at the same time avoiding the reality of their fate. Larkin’s Ant, on the contrary, is more courageous and proactive, but for all her pragmatism she quickly reveals herself to be equally apprehensive.

With Georgia Symon’s dramaturgy, a surrealistic scene, where Pea and Ant in thrall to the vastness of the water and sound and weather, seemingly absorbed in a sense of wild bewilderment, is especially striking.

I have always observed one of the most delicious sounds in theatre to be silence among the audience. There are several instances in this hour-long production, however, when the stage is totally quiet while laughter rings out from those watching — at apparent absurdities.

Thing is, the play skewers us exquisitely; we are the real butt of the jokes: for, too often, we do not realise the inane things we engage in for a futile purpose.

Ultimately, this is an intelligent, poetic work that will prove timeless. Whatever the meaning of Parley! in this context it has the significance of every weighty word we know, like commitment, like separation.

Theatre review: Humpty Dumpty Daddy


JC Person is no different from your usual idea of a dynamic millennial. In Joel Clapham’s unflinching performance at the centre of Humpty Dumpty Daddy, drawn from his true-life story, he is an intelligent, eloquent 34-year-old with an iPhone and a suave, captivating smile.

His mind, though, is somewhat more sombre. Newly separated from his wife, with three young children, plus the drudgery of a corporate identity, JC has been battling the black grip of mental depression, which, when one considers that his father had taken his own life at 35, is especially poignant.

Written and produced solely by Clapham the play gives us a theatrical version of the inside of JC’s head. We are invited into the cosy space at The Dock in Courthouse Hotel to be intimate witnesses of uncompromising pathos and a candour that startles and disarms.

We hear of (and agree with) the way a story-telling trait and scorching sense of humour seem to have passed down the generations: his balding paternal grandfather, Pop, told 5-year-old JC his hair had, in falling off his head, stuck to his ears and nostrils and chest where they now flourished.

In a calm, lucid tone, JC relates how he was not given the chance to restore with his father an old car that had been promised for his 18th birthday before his father, separated then from his mother, hung himself in the garage. Big and burly at 6ft 3in the older man, despite a mischievous quality, was never able to talk about his feelings or seek attention — something JC resolves not to emulate.

If his dad had taught him what not to do, his mum, on the contrary, has made him (and his two brothers) whom he is today: a good son, father, brother, uncle. Person. This heartfelt recognition is no doubt made more intense by JC’s role as a parent.

With overwhelming tenderness behind piercing eyes JC tells about his pride of being a father to his two sons and daughter, aged 8, 6 and 3, in which the underlying nature of the man comes shining through.

The young man reflects upon the challenges of fatherhood and the influences — positive and negative — parents have on impressionable lives.

It is a charming yet powerful watch, bravely and brilliantly delivered in an hour for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Woven through this very personal tale, too, are some deliciously memorable lines: recollecting the bubble-gum he and his brothers had given to their Pop they later found on his bed after he passed away, JC observes that even after somebody dies there exists physical and tangible evidence they keep on living by way of memory through those evidence.

Towards the end, one becomes acutely aware of the potential for history to repeat itself; after all, JC’s father was a single man when he suicided, probably suffered from mental health issues, had 3 kids, was also in his mid-30s.

Only, we have implicit faith in JC.

Men hide their emotions; they think them a weakness. But Clapham clearly knows that the showing of emotions is a strength. To do what he has done is a demonstration of incredible strength, incredible even for a woman.

Humpty Dumpty Daddy  is a fine work every man ought to see and every woman will appreciate.

Theatre review: Man of the Year



Full marks to 5pound theatre for opening one of the first shows for the Melbourne Fringe Festival. And it does so with voluble vigour, packing significant moments in our history over 2,000 years on a stage hardly larger than a pocket-handkerchief.

Thanked for their presence the audience finds themselves as guests of a speaker: the eponymous Man of the title. Soon, around and about two lecterns, memorable speeches by some of the world’s most prominent leaders begin to roll off his tongue. The Man leaps from Abraham Lincoln to Adolf Hitler, swerves past Martin Luther King to Margaret Thatcher, not before meditating on Winston Churchill, then glides on to Saddam Hussein and Stan Grant, through Susan B Anthony and Julia Gillard and Paul Keating. It is minute after enthralling minute of stirring rhetoric and rousing statements.

And now and then, through the 50-minute, one-person show, like words coming out of the air, a woman’s voice emerges from behind the curtain, interjecting the Man’s breathless recitals, as if speaking our unheard thoughts: she chastises his method of delivering the message, she interrogates the direction of his articulations, she questions his right to those famous articulations.

Despite the occasional whimsy this is a decidedly intense work, paying tribute to — and criticisms of — revolutionary luminaries, on whom time has passed judgement that the theatre-makers are here inquiring. With perceptible reverence and sensitivity the play contemplates the motivations behind the gleam of eloquence and ramifications of persuasive oratory. It dwells upon the way violence can be justified and asks if the desire for power and influence might not have been the common fuel in the infernal belly.

Then the Man, half-way through the staging, transforms into a rogue performer, as he narrates the execution of his plan to take his listeners hostage. He imagines a locked door, police thumping on the other side, tying up a victim. For a moment, with a glass-case on the lectern displaying a gun, its label “Chekhov’s Gun” staring tellingly at us, one is made to feel appropriately uneasy.

Only, nothing happens.

Instead, we move on to hear about racial discrimination and gender inequality, and their injustices and danger. We realise that because of the reformer in Anthony there rose the Iron Lady. And even though he rattles away in German the pronouncements of Hitler with deep, sonorous, guttural vibrations, the Man disdains Hussein’s Arabic. These certainly bear repeating at a time when hard-right groups are again emerging across Europe (and Australia), when women continue to endure lower salaries, and ethnic tensions are high. That the theatre company has chosen Man of the Year rather than Person of the Year to be the name of their drama seems to echo those sentiments.

Tim Wotherspoon’s production handles the weighty considerations in the material with control. The illumination that almost every important event can be linked all the way back to the first ages is astounding. There is nice work from Sharon Davis whose Voice has an effect profound enough on the Man to suggest the world eventually gets what they deserve. Jason Cavanagh is tremendous as the Man; dressed in a tuxedo over pyjama trousers and bedroom slippers he brings conviction and sincerity and spirit to the part, showing how words can charm and frighten and churn hearts and shape stories.

Man of the Year has plenty to say and one hopes it will not be edited away from the dramatic scene, like Chekhov would recommend for the gun that never goes off.


Book review: Heart of Darkness


The word epic seems inadequate to describe Joseph Conrad’s phenomenal novella Heart of Darkness. You don’t so much read it as absorb it in small doses like a drug. There are limits in one’s capacity to cope with the concentrated formula.

The book opens one night on a boat by the Thames where Marlow, through his recollections, takes several friends (including the unnamed narrator) along the Congo River. A sea-man by profession, Marlow was under the employment of a colonising regime, charged with delivering a coterie of men upstream to seek out their first-rate agent, Mr Kurtz. Esteemed on account of the amount and value of ivory he had harvested, Kurtz had generated anxiety with news of ill health.

Heart of Darkness was published in 1899, nine years after Conrad himself sailed into Congo as part of King Leopold’s administration, in which the author discovered that far from the ethical purpose of bringing progress to the backwater — what was being propagandised — extravagant carnage had been perpetrated for the material gain of elephant tusks. Some academics are convinced the novel was driven by a burning conscience.

Kurtz, it seems, had not been tarred by the same hypocrisy that stained the Belgian government. Marlow saw the way white people, despite or because of their own motives, were inspired by Kurtz’s conviction each outpost “should be like a beacon… towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanising, improving, instructing.”

But on arriving at Kurtz’s station deep in the region the captain of the steam-boat came upon scenes of horror: decapitated heads of natives were poised on poles outside the windows. More astonishingly still, surviving others worshipped him, literally, in “midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites”.

In calm, elegant, if dense, prose Conrad explains the sense of madness the jungle — dark, from absent law and missing public opinion — induces. Implacable and silent and still the wilderness, in these pages, is not just a setting; it is an active presence, a protagonist in the complex drama of ruin without redemption. The reader is subliminally persuaded with the inference of travelling into one’s own inner environment from a journey into the forests.

Conrad, writing in his third language, makes you sensitive to the nuance between a conqueror and a colonist. The distinction lies in intent: while a conqueror occupies and raids with as much morality as “burglars breaking into a safe” a colonist, in offering of themselves by way of deliberate belief, wins minds and hearts. And we see the different fates that come to fall on them respectively, raising resonant questions about toppling despots and spreading democracy.

To encounter Heart of Darkness after reading later literary works is to appreciate how writers like Graham Greene and VS Naipaul and John le Carré had been influenced by it. In this slender heavyweight every minute observation serves to convey something. Marlow is peculiar in finding “meaning of an episode not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out, only as a glow brings out a haze…” — an image threaded through this compelling narrative like a motif, not least in earth clearings being invariably surrounded by the wilderness, as by truth, by evil.

As he ventured farther and farther into the bush Kurtz who started off altruistic was confronted by his own personal reality that had now been claimed by greed, by desire for power, desire to be worshipped. He then dies, after uttering his judgement upon his soul’s adventures on this earth: The horror! The horror!

Interestingly, the woman to whom Kurtz was engaged to be married is depicted with light on her forehead making visible the darkness around her. Yet, like the subject in the oil painting by Kurtz, she is blind(folded) to the facts around the man she alleges to love, around indeed herself.

For all that has been debated about this giant in literature — that it is a historical document, that it is a parable of humanity’s weakness — Heart of Darkness is really, to me, anyway, a story of betrayal and power, perhaps of (mis)trust, perhaps of love. It is an honest, unflinching portrait of the human condition.

I cannot decide whether Kurtz perceived the last gestures of his Congolese mistress as a triumph for him. But I know he longed for her, with hate.

Arguments, too, have swirled around the book’s racist quality, which fades on consideration of unsavoury portrayals for both whites and blacks. Experts pronounce the work as anti-imperialist, but I am not sure. Marlow, many say is Conrad’s alter ego, is clearly against imperialism by the Belgians; thing is, he appears to favour that by the British.

With so much packed into the sentences between 111 pages, as in lines of cocaine for insufflation, the only side-effect from Heart of Darkness, though, is enlightenment, as it must have been for Marlow, acute, sombre enlightenment.


Theatre review: Duets

the_stain_duets_sizedlamama-314fa7c3The Stain, a three-women art troupe, certainly had on its mind expressions by two artistes in the creation of Duets. Conjugation, or the notion of it, is rife in Maude Davey’s eight-member cast staging, although the raunchy production turns out to be a poignant portrait of the joys and pain of human intimacy.

Held together by a palette of ballads and abstract dance, for an absent plot, the work reminds us that behind a world saturated by preoccupations with sex is ultimately a desire for connection.

After a bitter break-up, (in a stirring group performance of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know), a woman (Francesca Sculli) calls her lover (Jo Franklin), and attempts at reconciliation under apparent talk of rolling-pins and Crisco and nakedness.

A wildly distracted woman (exceptional Sarah Ward), her head in a television-box that she changes channels again and again, further fills the space with songs of longing and of loss. Despite achieving orgasm with inanimate objects she goes on to seek closeness with the audience in a gesture that suggests perhaps the inadequacy of physical gratification.

There is a powerful message inside what first appears to be a sleazy framework (replete with bananas and apples and fake penises) made more potent by Herbz’s dim and hazy set design — enveloped in murky sheets of plastic, so that one feels as if they are looking through half-closed eyes — and a soundscape in which Gen Bernstein’s guitar and Genevieve Fry’s harp strum heart-strings as achingly as they do the airwaves. The lighting is noteworthy, too, creating pulse and motion, like electricity shaking up your nerves.

It is The Huxley’s final rendition, however, that cuts most keenly. Joined from wearing separate costumes attached by a long, red fabric at each other’s chest, Will and Garrett Huxley show and sing of how love is a beautiful condition that comes with the inherent risk of being hurt by actions of the conjoined party.

Still, Duets ends (as it begins; in fact, is interwoven) with a sense of hope through Paula Russell whose graceful ballerina movements, accompanying a choice musical number, leaves you satisfied, with feelings of promise.

An enjoyable afternoon that combines mind and body, science and art, emotions and flesh.

Theatre review: To The Naked Eye

What are the things better left hidden To The Naked Eye in Cerise de Gelder’s play? Do they include the unhappiness within Clare’s matrimony, something neighbour and single-woman Stephanie suspects? Is the unethical business dealings husband Adam is believed to be involved in one of them? And that Stephanie is alone because, decades ago, her three-week-old groom had been convicted of murder — is this another? One thing is certain: none of these revelations makes any difference, even if the story ends with trailing possibilities.

We follow the lives of two suburban households, in which Clare finds herself repeatedly presented with gifts from a grateful Stephanie, whom she had helped in a car accident. When Adam becomes hostile to her excessive presence in their home, Stephanie attempts to convince Clare she could be better off on her own.

Meanwhile, the young house-maker, despite maintaining that she enjoys marital bliss, feels neglected by Adam who, himself nursing hurt from his wife’s one-time infidelity, claims to be hard at work. Then, suspicious of Stephanie’s untoward influence on their marriage, Adam divulges the secrets of her past, and accuses her of sinister motives behind the overtures of friendship.

Although the action of the tale lies in manipulation of power through exhuming skeletons in the closet, Gelder’s drama infers truth may be worth less than one would imagine. As the narrative unfolds, we see that, because of circumstances, bringing things into light changes nothing. Characters seem to accept the impossibility of understanding why people do what they do. Given life must go on, the play leads one to think, it might be preferable for happiness to be uncoloured by pain.

Brenda Palmer’s staging is brilliant, with the characters jointlessly segueing between soliloquy (as they voice their inner thoughts) and dialogue. In her collaboration with Harry Paternoster whose set deploys the space to magnificent effect, she uses long swathes of cloth to convey transience and a sense of deliberate, if languid, interference.

Performance, too, is tremendous. Stephanie Lillis is volatile and vulnerable as Clare, an attention-starved spouse, with divided loyalties, yet sure of neither. Carolyn Masson is nervy and defiant as Stephanie, a middle-aged loner determined to avoid a similar fate that met with the Sarajevo woman (she’d read) who had been so isolated she was discovered years after her death.

And Miljana Cancar is the returned spirit of that Sarajevo woman, the enlightened figure in red who, in spite of lurking in a corner, is an instructive voice inside Stephanie’s head, while Robert Ricks is Adam, effectively suggesting a tormented soul behind the abrasiveness.

This is a profound meditation on idealism and pragmatism, dramatising the interface between self-interests, reality, letting go. What is not hidden To The Naked Eye, though, is that behind the fabric of every existence lies the bleak terror of loneliness.

Film review: Mia Madre


As our parents age impending bereavement from their death inches closer for some of us. Exploring how lives can be dimmed by the stress of this reality, Mia Madre is a gentle drama so melancholy and drawn-out its very air seems to have been sucked away by labour and gloom.

Filming a picture about worker-protests against factory layoffs, director Margherita (Margherita Buy) learns, alongside her brother Giovanni (in a beautifully tempered performance by Nanni Moretti, writer and director of Mia Madre, himself), that their eponymous mother Ada (Giulia Lazzarini) is dying.

Giovanni is sad but calm and dedicates his time to caring for Ada; Margherita, on the other hand, exists in denial, teetering on an emotional melt-down, amid strains in her daily life.

Divorced, she has just initiated to break-off a relationship with a devoted lover. That her teenage daughter, Livia (Beatrice Mancini), has apparently been nursing a heartache she until now knew nothing about is weighing on the guilt. And the leading-man, Barry Huggins (John Turturro), she has imported from America for her movie is proving exasperating and never remembers his lines.

Revealing very little about the bond between Ada and Margherita, despite hints of past fractures, this (curious) Cannes-award winner is largely suspected to be autobiographical; for Moretti was making his feature We have a Pope in 2011 when his own mother passed away.

If so, Margherita’s favourite instruction to her actors — “to stand beside your character when playing them” — may not be that bewildering, after all. If each of us consists of an outer-persona (character-role) and an inner (our alter-ego), then Giovanni is really the inside-man of the film-maker who is Moretti acted out by Buy.

If so, it is a delicious conceit.

Only, the 106-minute account alights remorselessly on protracted  and iterative narrations about the way Margherita is (not) coping. Visits to the hospital are touching but dull. While dream sequences and recollections and a fascinating scene, in which she appears to come face-to-face with her younger-self, count like the equivalent of stream-of-consciousness in literature, the story feels like a book uninferent of progress.

Even Tuturro, by adding colour and raising tempo in his portrayal of the idiosyncratic star, cannot save the work.

Towards the end, we see how Margherita arrives at a better understanding of her mother, of herself, indeed of their startling contrasts.

“You don’t like anything… that’s the way you live,” says her lover, bitterly. “People can have only small doses of you.”

Well, in Mia Madre, she has been a flame-extinguishing dollop.

Theatre review: In Search of Owen Roe


Arcane ancestor-stories, amongst the most intriguing elements of self-identity, offer rich pickings for dramatists. And this play, written and performed by Vanessa O’Neill, in which she uncovers her Irish roots, certainly digs deep.

Voices in the head and insomnia and a restless consciousness take us back to the 17th-century when Owen Roe O’Neill fought an armed resistance against English rule. One of the most famous antecedents of the dynasty, the commander of the Ulster Army was remembered two hundred years after his death.

It is, however, her great-grandfather, who shares that weighty name eons later, whose life Vanessa desires to explore.

Only, she finds that the body of the man is interred under a bare patch of earth, unmarked, beside his 13-year-old daughter, while everybody else in the family has tombstones to their graves. Why, nobody appears to know.

In this crisp, 60-minute, one-woman show, the playwright tells of how she set out on her mission that has since involved poring over countless documents and trekking many times to her native Shamrock over the past 18 years.

Glynis Angell directs this compelling production that gives us in part a theatrical version of the inside of Vanessa’s mind. Sounds of her thoughts come out of the air (in a haunting design by Darious Kedros) about our heads.

The stage is dark and intimate, with a sense of discontent, furnished by a map of Ireland on the one side, and the other a family tree that fruits as the narrative progresses with names.

At the centre, though, of this brooding agitation and persistent search is Vanessa’s father slipping into dementia; and in his struggle for freedom and for dignity she recognises a mirror to her own fighting spirit, and indeed her son’s emerging quality of independent thinking.

Albeit subtle, Vanessa’s scalpel is uncompromising. She peels away one layer of time after another, alluding to idiosyncracies and strength of character that seem to have passed down the generations like breathing heritage.

At its best, the writing combines poetry and soaring images, as it frames the action with ghostly figures that blur the boundary between the dead and living.

But it is Vanessa switching effortlessly into and out of myriad roles — her father, the great-grandmother, various Irish men she meets at the pub, her son, cousins, to name a few — using artistic unities to fuse past and present that this staging really shines.

Yet, despite its acuity and tenderness, some parallels drawn across the genealogy feel somewhat elbowed into the account, and strains credulity.

Still, as revelations unfold and we come to understand perhaps why the title character was buried without a stone, and to speculate at his decision to calling himself Gary, In Search of Owen Roe, indubitably satisfies.

It is one of those memorable works that leaves you wondering about your own roots and their secrets and about the same vein that shapes lives today as they shaped them then.

Film review: The Daughter


In a scene near the opening of Simon Stone’s The Daughter, a wild duck with a gunshot wound to its wing stares straight out, motionless, from inside a cage, as if disappointed in the world, on a vehicle that bears it away. “Put it out of its misery,” a voice says. Then new rounds are loaded into a gun.

We do not know whether the coup de grace is carried through, until the duck appears a third of the way into the film in the animals’ home of Walter (Sam Neill), a local resident. “It is like an artificial RSPCA,” says his grand-daughter, Hedvig (Odessa Young), about the makeshift sanctuary in the rural town.

The debut feature by Stone, an Australian theatre director, in his adaptation of Hendrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, weaves through the tale its analogy, resonant though it is, like luminous cotton. However, what it lacks in subtlety, this gorgeously-shot movie — of pale palettes, as though the entire drama takes place behind the grey mist of the NSW countryside — more than makes up for in its soundtrack and first-rate acting. Besides the title character that is powerfully embodied by Young, the rest of the formidable cast plays their roles with convincing flawlessness.

When we meet him, Henry (Geoffrey Rush), the owner of a timber mill that has kept the whole community employed for more than a generation, is announcing its closure. There are a few jeers, some quiet swears, amid feelings of resignation. But while people are forced to relocate to seek employment elsewhere, the mogul is planning a lavish wedding to his housekeeper, a much younger woman. And his son, Christian (Paul Schneider), has also just returned for the ceremony from America.

Estranged from his father, Christian chooses to spend time with his childhood mate, Oliver (Ewen Leslie), and gets to know his daughter, Hedvig, his wife, Charlotte (Miranda Otto), and becomes reacquainted with Walter, in whose safe-house he sees the recovering duck and learns about Henry’s involvement in its plight.

Only, he goes on to learn more.

In the years he has been away since his mother’s suicide, Christian has battled alcoholism. And now as he witnesses Henry’s apparent self-centred indifference, moving on with a new relationship, his own marriage in tatters, the embittered man resumes drinking with abandon.

Deftly swelling an imperceptible sense of latent violence, Stone makes us hold our breath in anticipation of what damage on Oliver’s family bliss instability could inflict with long-hidden truths.

It is not hard to infer where Stone has elected to place his emphasis, nevertheless. Following Hedvig in her navigation through endless changes, the account is ultimately an end-of-innocence story in which the 16-year-old finds her fate pre-ordained from birth. Although proving resilient, after being disillusioned by her first sexual encounter, she grapples with friends leaving the neighbourhood, and struggles to understand impunity for the rich and powerful, before watching her family unravel in a whirlwind of scandals and secrets.

Toward the end of the film, there is one frame, quick and (incongruently) nuanced, flashing past like fleeting consciousness, that I found particularly indelible: as the father-daughter relationship between Hedvig and Oliver collapses in a bleak carpark, the camera pans to an upstairs window of a nearby apartment block, and the child’s face — looking down upon them — in it.

The Daughter, that connects two families across three generations, impresses with the way it captures deep-seated human emotions. And despite its trite metaphor of a broken bird flying again, and its less-than-credible denouement, it is something worth watching still.

%d bloggers like this: