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Paul, a prize-winning war journalist, returns to his remote New Zealand hometown due to the death of his father, battle-scarred and world-weary. For the discontented sixteen-year-old Celia he opens up a world she has only dreamed of. She actively pursues a friendship with him, fascinated by his cynicism and experience of the world beyond her small-town existence. But many, including the members of both their families, frown upon the friendship and when Celia goes missing, Paul becomes the increasingly loathed and persecuted prime suspect in her disappearance. As the violent and urgent truth gradually emerges, Paul is forced to confront the family tragedy and betrayal that he ran from as a youth, and to face the grievous consequences of silence and secrecy that has surrounded his entire adult life. Written by
Once in a while, Cathay@Orchard screens their exclusive showcase selection of films which are not part of your mainstream Hollywood offering. In My Father's Den is one such film, and it is not often that I dive head on into a film without knowing at least a bit of the background or production details.
This film is an NZ-UK production, and it sure is set in NZ alright when I saw the "Pump" brand of bottled water in one of the scenes. Can't get anymore authentic than that! However, I'm in two minds as to how to rate this film. The narrative is painfully slow (butt-numbing 2hrs 10 mins), but necessary to allow you time to think through what is going on, and the revelation of the ending, shocking yet somewhat expected.
Paul Prior is a renowned war photo-journalist who's back in NZ to attend his father's funeral. Although he missed it, being back home gave him the opportunity to touch base with his estranged brother and his wife (Lord of the Rings fan will recognize Miranda Otto here), his nephew, and hook back up with his ex-flame who's now married to somebody else.
During this time, he hooks up with one of his students, 16 year old Celia, whose outlook in life, and passion for writing, brought back memories of himself, as well as memories of his ex-flame Jackie. However, an old photograph triggers suspicion that Celia might be the child Jackie bore him, before he literally walked out on his family, and Jackie. Meanwhile, you get a feeling that Celia is beginning to develop feelings for Paul, which all the more should sound alarm bells.
But things turn for the worse when Celia goes missing, and Paul becomes the prime suspect for her disappearance. It is during the portion of the film that time is juxtaposed, which might make it a little confusing or irate the viewer. There are many characters in this film, and your mind will race as to sieve out the red herrings, and decide who's involved, and who's not.
The "den" in the title refers to a shed that Paul's father has, which is stashed with good books, and good vinyl music discs. Quite a number of good songs are played throughout, which makes the soundtrack appealing. Many pivotal events take place in this shed, being a place of refuge for Paul, to being a key element of suspense and shock to the audience when the twist is revealed.
The multi-faceted relationships between the characters form the theme of this film, and the cast put up excellent performances in bringing their roles to life. The ending, when revealed and when you think through it in its proper chronological order, is fulfilling, yet laced with a heavy dose of sadness.
So if you're in for some classic story-telling, from a plot that really takes its time to unravel, then this is recommended for you. If you'd prefer to get on with action, then you should stick to the blockbuster summer offerings.
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