In My Father’s Den

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Movie Review by Mary-Louise Pericleous

Starring: Matthew Macfadyen, Miranda Otto, Emily Barclay, Colin Moy
Director: Brad McGann

Some memories can be bitterly painful where the only way to keep ongoing is to become disconnected from the world.

The story revolves around Paul Prior (Mathew Macfadyen), a war zone photographer who has returned to his remote home town off the South Island of New Zealand to attend his father’s funeral. Having been away for seventeen years his resentful brother Andrew (Colin Moy) is shocked at his sudden arrival.

Paul revisits the den where he spent much of his childhood bonding with his father. On entering the den he is surprised to find the young Celia (Emily Barclay) sitting on the armchair and an awkward friendship begins to evolve amongst the two of them. Paul’s situation begins to become more complicated when he realises Celia is the daughter of his ex-girlfriend Jackie (Jodie Rimmer). Then just when you thought it could not get any worse Celia goes missing and Paul becomes the prime suspect!

The film is based on Maurice Gee’s novel which was first published over thirty years ago. Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh emphasised the picturesque New Zealand with all its beauties. Having worked on films such as THE PIANO and ONCE WERE WARRIORS, he has yet again proved his astonishing filmic skills.

IN MY FATHER’S DEN is a brilliant example of subjective filmmaking and credit should be given to the director Brad McGann for successfully developing a character who takes a journey through regression. McGann uses a series of flashbacks for Paul to revisit the traumatic past and then back to the obscure present to deal with the outcome of his memories. The one and only downside to this film is that some of the longer scenes could have been edited out whereas some of the better scenes are cut short. However, Matthew Macfadyen’s performance is astonishing. He portrays Paul as a man who is lonely and isolated yet mystifying and secretive. He blocks out his emotions completely which makes you intrigued to find out what has happened in his past that has made him the enclosed character he is today.

The theme that consistently runs through the film is escapism. Where as a child there is perhaps the need to run away or keep a secret, push down a painful memory and lock it so deep that as an adult it becomes suffocating and brings to the surface a railway of emotions. Where innocence becomes lost and damaged because of an unbearable memory.

Andrew’s wife Penny (Miranda Otto) who resembles Andrew’s mother in the film Iris (Vanessa Riddell) I found slightly humorous as I could not help thinking of Freud’s Theory on the Oedipus Complex and wondering if he were alive today what would he make of all the relationships in this film?

A mystery/crime/drama film with a touch of difference and an impressive filmic style I recommend.

4 out of 6 stars