Saturday, 29 September 2012

Review - In My Father's Den (2004 - Dir. Brad McGann)

It takes something special for me to watch a film after I've had my tea in one sitting. The usual scenario is I watch the first ten minutes, nod off, and wake at half past two in the morning on the settee not knowing where I am. Even the Champions League final couldn't keep me awake and the only bits I saw were the kick off and Didier Drogba's final penalty. I had a lovely kip in between though. All this goes to show the quality and entertainment value of In My Father's Den to be able to keep a warm, full bellied Doccortex awake for two of the hours of darkness.

This is a subtle and moody tale set in smalltown New Zealand and you're never quite sure where it's going. Is it human drama? Is it a psychological thriller? You're never quite sure until the end, and even then the boundaries are blurred. The whole experience is a veritable jigsaw of clues, snippets of information and flashbacks, and it's a joy to attempt to piece them together to arrive at some kind of understanding of what's going on. And I hate jigsaws.

The excellent Matthew Macfadyen (Poliakoff's Perfect Strangers) plays a world renowned war reporter returning to his home town for the first time in many years. He's obviously disturbed and clearly has issues with his family, but it's intriguing as to why he finds his father's funeral so difficult. The true picture unfolds almost in slow motion as we get to know the characters in a depth and detail rarely seen outside of the aforementioned Poliakoff's work. Macfadyen is excellent as the dour journalist on a quest of self discovery in his rural homeland and is generally smouldering, aggressive and always smoking. The supporting cast are equally impressive with Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) suitably distant, and previously unknown Emily Barclay, as natural as pure New Zealand wool.

The film is a visual feast with a variety of shots of the awe inspiring landscapes, but is in no way an epic production with a limited colour palette that places the film somewhere on the colour spectrum between sepia and water colour and lends the events the look of an ancient, washed out Australian sitcom from the seventies. This makes the film a much more intimate affair with the rich browns of the den itself providing a dark and mysterious feel to proceedings in the secret room.
All in all, it's an intelligent and enjoyable film that would sit comfortably in the cinema or as a TV mini-series. If you enjoy detailed characterisation and a slow burning plot development this is one to watch. Definitely recommended.

If you like this you could also try:
Perfect Strangers, Shooting the Past.

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