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This is a powerful and affecting film. I have a few quibbles about Ms.
Miller's use of the camera and her editing, especially in the beginning
as there were too many jerky cuts/unnecessary camera movements which
were quite distracting. Thankfully they diminished as the film
Camilla Belle's as Rose performance was surprisingly nuanced and rich for such a young actress, she didn't have one false note and was totally believable as this "feral," innocent, yet disturbed teen. All the supporting actors were excellent, the characterizations and dialogue engaging and true and the emotional unraveling harrowing.
Day-Lewis' performance as Jack Slavin was outstanding. It hits you with such power that it left me flattened. While the credits ran I had to close my gaping jaw, peel myself off the movie chair and stumble up the aisle trying to absorb it all. Moment by moment he communicated paragraphs of information about Jack's multi-layered internal complexities with complete mastery and subtlety. The man's our finest film actor, period.
This movie has an original voice, it doesn't pander and despite some visual clichés, it follows its own unique internal logic. Definitely worth seeing, especially for the performances of Day-Lewis and Camilla Belle.
This film disappeared locally right after its theatrical debut, so when
IFC showed it recently, we rushed to catch up with it. Having admired
its director, Rebecca Miller in all her films, we were right in seeing
it in the wide screen of the main theater because that seems to be the
perfect way to watch this intimate picture.
Ms. Miller takes us to an island off the coast of the continental mainland to set her story. As the film opens we watch Jack Flavin with his teen age daughter as they are perched on the roof of their strange cabin with the roof being made of lawn grass. They are father and daughter who have stayed in the land where years ago, had been a commune. We don't know what happened to Rose's mother, and nothing is clarified. We gather Jack and Rose have a special bond that at times border in incest.
Jack believes in keeping the island the way it is; development is coming fast and furious in the way of luxury homes being built in what probably will be a gated community where people of the same background and financial means will live, in sharp contrast as the commune idea that attracted Jack to the place. Jack, having inherited money from his father is financially secure, but still lives in a primitive way in a basic type of life. We see Jack as he takes pills; we realize he is not a well man.
When Jack takes a side trip to the mainland, he visits Kathleen, a single mother with two teen aged sons. Jack convinces her to come to live with him at the island. What Jack doesn't count is on Rose's reaction to the invasion to her space. In fact, the hatred for the invaders is instant. Katheleen, a kind woman herself, tries to reach Rose without any success. Rodney, one of the sons, has a weight problem, and has studied to be a hairdresser. Thaddius, is the rebel, who has an eye on the beautiful Rose.
Jack's basic intention for bringing Kathleen is to help him during his last days because he senses his days are numbered. When Thaddius suffers an accident, Kathleen takes the opportunity to go back home, leaving Jack and Rose to fend for themselves.
Ms. Miller takes an elegiac look at the situation making Jack into an almost Shakespearean character, that is, bigger than life. Jack is lovingly photographed in his many moods. The beautiful Rose's face shows all the emotions going on inside her. The director ought to be congratulated for involving us in the film and making us care for what will happen to Jack and Rose.
Daniel Day-Lewis is an actor who doesn't work much these days and that is our loss! As Jack, Mr. Day-Lewis has the rare opportunity to show his vulnerability and seems to be naked in front of our eyes because he doesn't hide the emotions from us. We know at any given moment what this man is thinking and what makes him tick. Mr. Day-Lewis gives a fabulous performance as he dominates the picture completely.
Camilla Belle is Rose. This young actress proves he is up to the task the director demands of her character. Not only is she beautiful, but she clearly exudes an innate intelligence that pays off in her portrayal of the girl who sees her world fall apart and has no way to stop what is killing her father.
Catherine Keener makes a valuable contribution to the film as Kathleen. She clearly is a gentle soul who is in love with Jack and wants to stay with him until the end. That is not meant to be because Jack realizes that in "importing" her to the island she gets in the way of the perfect balance between father and daughter.
Ryan McDonald makes the confused Rodney come alive. This young actor is a natural. The rest of the cast include minor appearances by Beau Bridges, Jason Lee, Jena Malone and Paul Dano, who plays Thaddius the other son.
"The Ballad of Jack and Rose" is clearly not for a wide audience because it's too intelligent to get a broader distribution, but the fans of Rebecca Miller will always cherish this film for what she brought to it and for the magnificent performances she got from her cast. The film is beautifully photographed Ellen Kuras and has an interesting score by Michael Rohatyn.
My pick for male Oscar winner so far this year is Daniel Day-Lewis as
an eccentric father of a precocious girl in The Ballad of Jack and
I don't think the bard suggested incest on the menu for Prospero and Miranda, but in this ballad dad and daughter alone on a remote peninsula off the East coast are not fighting just real estate developers and dad's lovers, they are dealing with incestuous feelings so subtly relayed that even our delicately Christian president might not be offended.
I have five beautiful daughters in the healthiest of relationships, but that a man alone with a bright, loving, free-spirited daughter could go to the dark side is the genius of this parable about the difficulties of living outside societal norms, which sometimes are fortunately restrictive of baser instincts.
Day-Lewis's conflicted protagonist is a marvelous piece of acting, the best of his career, and the most interesting this year.
After not seeing much from Daniel Day-Lewis for a while, I was excited to see this film, though I was afraid it may not live up to what we expect from him. It was far better than I could have hoped, due not only to a terrific cast, but Rebecca Miller's writing and directing. The moments of humour ring with truth, and the characters have been developed so well, you feel voyeuristic. Daniel Day-Lewis is, as always, brilliant. The internal struggles his character goes through are poignant and completely believable. In fact, all of the characters in this story are a wonderfully realistic blend of black and white - all have virtues and all are flawed. Very thought-provoking and evocative. Visually beautiful, as well. This is a very underrated film and deserves far more recognition than it seems to have received.
This film is a must-see for anyone who has witnessed or is dealing with
emotional incest. Lewis portrays Jack, a single father who has lived on
an island in isolation with his daughter until his new girlfriend comes
to move in. Up until the girlfriend's arrival, Jack and his daughter
Rose have lived in isolation on an island compound.
After the girlfriend's arrival, Rose's jealousy grows, and she tries to take the girlfriend's place. In an effort to to marginalize the girlfriend, Rose takes up a new-found interest in sexuality, thinking that must be what her father wants and is getting from the girlfriend.
It's obvious to anyone watching that Jack loves his daughter, and in many ways has been a wonderful father to her. The problem is not that he does not love her, or that he loves her too much. The problem is that he's loved her in the wrong way. He allowed Rose to fill the void left by her mother. He elevated Rose to the position of spouse. Jack realizes this, and sets out to undo the damage.
The movie also deals with the dreams of reconciliation children of divorce have. Rose displays all the postcards her mother sends on a wall in the house and tells the new girlfriend that "one day she's coming back."
I always find Daniel Day-Lewis's characters engaging, and Jack is no different. He's a brilliant and eccentric man who is conflicted by the desire to love and protect his daughter, and the desire to prepare her to be an independent woman. He has the clarity to recognize his foibles, and his bumbling efforts to set things straight bring compassion to human frailty.
I'm an Indy film addict, and was iffy about watching this one because of the description above, but on a whim i bought it and watched it and fell in love. The story of Jack and Rose is told so beautifully and perfectly that as the story progressed I found myself hoping that something would change, or hoping for some plot twist saying that rose wasn't his daughter, because I truly wanted these two to work out. The devotion between father and daughter is amazingly portrayed, Daniel Day-Lewis was perfect and I cannot imagine anyone else in this movie. Once i finished watching for the first time I found myself almost in a daze, the progression of Rose's whole being was a delicate matter that was handled beautifully. There was a feeling of tension throughout that drew me in. I have never fallen in love with a movie like this before. Bravo to the writer and cast and all involved. Thank you for this beautiful film about love, loss and culture change.
Any film starring the Daniel Day Lewis is a pretty safe bet. Although indisputably sexy, he grabs the roles which once were only for 'character actors', which in Hollywood meant past the best, not-bland, kooky, or downright ugly. This time, he's an ageing hippy from Motherwell (judging by his impeccable accent), living on in an abandoned commune with Rose, his daughter (Camilla Belle) who has been so well kept away from the corrupting influences of the outside world that she behaves like his clone, or sister, or lover. Nothing lasts for ever, and here it's Jack's failing health and Rose's growing up that threaten the status quo. Jack's attempt to patch up his way of life which is falling apart like the commune house itself, means importing his actual lover, who brings her two sons. Awkwardly for Jack, all these people have their own lives and aspirations, which is something he will have become unaccustomed to on his little island, and the clash leads everyone in directions none of them expected. A further complication is the building of a dinky housing estate which Jack's terrorist policies cannot halt, and again, the man responsible for this inroad from the modern world turns out to be a human, too. The story raises lots of questions about freedom and responsibility; not least through the fact that Jack can only live his pure, undefiled life because of inherited money. The plot is full of surprises and so are the cast, negotiating a multi-layered web of intrigue with as much delicacy as strength. Rebecca Miller clearly is a writer of singular imagination, and if this, her third film (although she started acting on-screen in 1988) is the way she intends to keep directing, then that's just fine. CLIFF HANLEY
There's nothing more exciting than seeing quality work come from a group of unknowns. While Daniel Day Lewis and Catherine Keener are the marquee name anchors for the film the most delightful surprises come from Camilla Bell and Ryan McDonald who give honest and often very mature performances. McDonald in particular has a knack for off-beat humor and gets some of the best lines in the film. Given the gorgeous setting, the beautiful cinematography and the high caliber writing I can't think of a better film I've seen so far this year. The movie is not without its flaws, but they're minimal in relation to all the elements that are wonderfully right.
Loved the movie. The beautiful story went well with the picturesque setting in our smallest Canadian province on the east coast, Prince Edward Island, where the movie was filmed. Daniel Day Lewis was great. I wonder, did he have to lose a lot of weight to play the part? Ryan MacDonald did an excellent job and gave the movie some comedic relief. It brought back memories of the good old commune days! Maybe a return to those days might do our world some good. Beau Bridges gave a good performance as well but the sweet innocence of Rose was really the essence of the movie. You could feel the love connection between her and her father, be it father/daughter love or the love felt between lovers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rebecca Miller has written and directed another fine film that probes
the consequences of the passage of time and life, finding incongruities
in ideals and realities impacting everyday people. The result is a film
of tenderness and dashed hopes and unconditional love between a father
Jack Slavin (Daniel Day-Lewis) is a Scottish immigrant who mentally still lives in the 1960s, full of adoration of nature and the idealistic expectations of the Hippies reacting against a country at war with Vietnam. He and his daughter Rose (Camilla Belle) now (in 1986) live in a deserted hippie commune on an island off the East Coast of the USA. Their relationship is idyllic, living off the land, at one with nature. Jack has heart failure and worries about the fate of his isolated Rose almost as much as he loathes the inevitable encroachment of land developers such as Marty Rance (Beau Bridges) who is building houses on the precious wetlands on the opposite side of Jack's island.
Jack seeks to solve (control) problems: he invites his girlfriend Kathleen (Catherine Keener) and her two sons Rodney (Ryan McDonald) and Thaddius (Paul Dano) to enlarge his family at the old commune, and he confronts Marty with threats that he will destroy the development project. Once the extended family is formed, Rose views Jack having sex with Kathleen, decides she must 'grow up' and attempts to enter womanhood by unsuccessfully seducing Rodney and ultimately losing her virginity to Thaddius, an event she makes public by hanging her stained banner sheet on the windswept clothesline. Jack reacts in rage then anguish at his failure to provide a secure, healthy future for Rose, and in time gives in to the developers and draws Rose back to him in a final scene that is one of the most touching farewells on film.
Daniel Day-Lewis is so completely immersed in his character that he never for a moment loses our compassion. The entire cast is excellent, the pacing of this sensitive script is extraordinary, and the entire production crew (cinematography, music, editing, etc) shares the sense of commitment to Miller's direction. This is a genuinely touching film completely without the saccharine tones that could have overtaken the story. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp
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