Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Camilla Belle, Catherine Keener, Paul Dano
Director: Rebecca Miller
Some would call THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE a strange, strange story. This is mainly due to the relationship between its two main characters. Make no mistake; what goes on here is, by any of today’s standards, pretty peculiar. But if you look at the context of this film you’ll find that it fits in remarkably well.
A father and his daughter being exceptionally close is not considered the norm these days, and the kind of intimate parent-child relationship that Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Rose (Camilla Belle) share could border on the illegal if it was happening in real life.
Then again, these characters live in strange circumstances. Cut off from the world, Jack has chosen to bring his daughter up almost single-handedly on an island that once housed a commune. It’s clear from the outset that he has always been discontent with modern society, and as he explains in the film, the commune was an experiment to try and rebuild society on a small scale. From the looks of things, the 60s Flower Power formula didn’t quite achieve world supremacy. After the commune fell to pieces, Jack stayed on with Rose and made a self-sufficient, contented life out of what was left.
Now he is sick and she is growing up. Jack starts to see the error of his ways. He decides to ease a difficult time by asking his secret mainland girlfriend (Catherine Keener) and her two sons to move in with them. Rose is furious. This is understandable. She retaliates because she feels threatened and doesn’t want to lose her one-and-only caretaker, a man who has been her only reference for life during her entire life. The balance is disturbed.
This indie drama is about change, about making mistakes and about growing up – sexually and emotionally. It is a character study which holds incredible moments of truth executed brilliantly by its actors (especially Daniel Day-Lewis who is on top form), even though an exact story such as this one is never likely to happen. It also manages to be funny and sensitive, telling its tale with strong actions that make the characters that carry them out all the more potent.
It is however by no means perfect. Being a tad too slow means it’s boring if you are easily distracted, while the actual filmmaking is embarrassingly obvious in the symbolism it continuously attaches to everything. This makes it feel like an experiment rather than a mature masterpiece. Still, watching THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE is more interesting than strange, and as such, deserves a viewing.