The Daughter (2016), Dir. Simon Stone

The Daughter (2016), Dir. Simon Stone
Well it’s not the life I expected when it was nineteen. But I’m lucky.
— Oliver Finch, The Daughter (2016)

Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Miranda Otto, Anna Torv, Sam Neill, Odessa Young.
Director: Simon Stone
Screenplay: Simon Stone

This is one amazing Australian drama. It treats every character as a person, every action is rational which allows you to become disappointed and angry at these characters for their actions. The world that has been set up in The Daughter is real, the dynamics are real, their reactions to situations are real, and their inability to see their own flaws is so, so real.

Set around Christian (Paul Schneider) coming back to the mill town for his father's (Henry played by Geoffrey Rush) wedding to his 31 year old fiancé Anna (Anna Torv). He has not been back for over 16 years as he left after his mother committed suicide. Henry runs a forestry mill that has just had to shut down due to lack of demand so many families are having to pack up and move on which leaves the town feeling disconnected, abandoned and uncertain—and this is only days after the announcement.

Oliver Finch (Ewen Leslie) and his family have been affected by the closure as they may have to think about moving on as his wife, Charlotte's (Miranda Otto) teaching job is not enough to cover the bills. They have a daughter, Hedvig (Odessa Young) and his father, Walter (Sam Neill) lives out in the shed after being released from prison over fraud. Oliver and Christian used to be best mates back in university so when Christian comes back into town he has made the most of catching up with his old friend.

There is a lot to set up in this film but it never feels like they are placing the pawns and knights into place on the board. What we get to see is a window into these characters lives from Hedvig romancing her boyfriend, Oliver and Christian rekindling their relationship, Walter looking after birds in his forest, and slowly unravelling how all the pieces on the board all connect to a hidden truth.

With a stellar cast—and a criminal minimal use of the amazing Anna Torv—everyone shines in this film, but Ewen Leslie really stands out. I haven't seen him in anything else so him almost outshining everyone is a pleasant surprise. He is infectious on screen and every line and moment are a treat. I also think this is Sam Neill's best work in a long while—yes, even better than Hunt for the Wilderpeople—and I love Odessa as Hedvig, she is just a joy to watch on the screen.

I could watch this movie over and over again, it is magical in how it creates such a small story into something of such greatness. This all comes down to the amazing cast, great screenplay, beautiful cinematography, and direction; they all work here. So hats off to Simon Stone as he has produced my favourite film of the year so far.