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:: The Daughter

The past and an old friend catch up with an unemployed father who ends up with a different type of job on his hands. Simon Stone makes his directorial debut bringing to screen his stage adaptation of The Wild Duck, and the Australian scenery offers ample space for his actors to pace around and melodramatically scream into the air. Yes, these actors get to really act, and the walking scenes – often from behind the head, set to heightened music – are walks to remember.

Returning home for his father’s wedding, Christian (Schneider) reconvenes with childhood buddy Oliver (Leslie), leading to an all-night boozy catch-up and what’s already a contender for best vomit scene in a 2016 film. Talk of Oliver’s early, adventurous years surprises his teenage daughter, Hedvig (Young), but not so much his wife Charlotte (Otto) and father (Neill). Christian mentions a “secret” he’s been meaning to tell Oliver, but will he?

Of course, in any drama all dirty laundry must be aired, especially in a story structured around a 19th century Ibsen play. And on the surface, The Daughter – with its “this is how I feel” dialogue” – can feel ordinary, before the very human bitterness rises to the surface. It’s not what the secret is, but why reveal it. Schneider’s terrific performance delves into a mean core disguised by the fabric of an amiable exterior, as well as his ability to break down completely – it reminds me of the scene in All the Real Girls when he starts punching the ground in agony.

The acting is superb, headed by two Antipodean heavyweights in Rush and Neill, both in restrained less-is-more modes. The 16-year-old Odessa Young, as the titular daughter Hedvig, is a passionate addition exploring a new-found sexuality and shooting cans with her boyfriend using her grandfather’s shotgun – one that has a role to play in forthcoming events. But she also cares for her own sanctuary of injured animals.

This is also a breakout performance for Ewen Leslie, who starred in Stone’s original stage production. He symbolizes how Stone has made that rare leap from stage to screen that lacks evidence of adaptation. He’s devastating at showing the unravelling of the doggedly upbeat Oliver, cruelly subdued by past events as the film enters its final stages. To reveal more would be churlish. This is a thriller in which secrets hide behind the shadows like shot-gun wielding murderers.