This is actor/director Simon Stone’s first outing as a screenwriter. In adapting Ibsen’s classic play The Wild Duck, for screen, Stone has delivered an atmospheric, contemporary drama which stays true to the original. Setting it in a dying logging town in Australia was a genius move, allowing the location to add more than mere background to the story: the town itself becomes a character, and weaves in and around the action.
In directing his own script, Stone has pulled together a faultless ensemble of actors, well-known and new. Outstanding is Ewen Leslie as Oliver. Leslie displays a depth and breadth of emotion that surely must make him an AFI nominee. Alongside Leslie, as wife Charlotte, is the always luminous Miranda Otto. American actor Paul Schnieder, known for Parks and Recreation amongst other things, is perfectly cast as the outsider, Christian, who begins all the trouble. Stalwarts Geoffrey Rush and Sam Neill add character with faultless subtlety.
However, the knock-out in this film, full of talent, is Odessa Young. Totally believable in the strong-fragile role of the eponymous daughter, Hedvig, Young can hold her own alongside Leslie, Otto and Neill. She is a young actor who is a joy to watch, and it is as if this role were written especially for her.
What a cause for celebration it is to watch an Australian film that has a near-perfect screenplay behind it: this is a, sadly, rare occurrence. Beautifully shot by Andrew Commis, using locations around Tumut in NSW and with a suitably tense, yet non-intrusive score by Mark Bradshaw, this is one of the best Australian films I have seen in too long a time.
Just this once…believe the hype!
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 10: 9
The Daughter will be released in cinemas from 17 March 2016.