IN MY FATHER'S DEN
Reviewed by: Jamey Hughton
What's it about
Acclaimed war photo-journalist Paul (Matthew MacFayden) returns to his hometown in New Zealand many years after he decided he would take off and travel the globe. Back for his fatherís funeral (although he misses that too), Paul meets Celia (Emily Barclay), the daughter of a former flame, who proves to be a kindred spirit for him.
Is it good movie?
It was very cool to get IN MY FATHER'S DEN in the mail from my good friend The Arrow. This isn't a horror film, it's part character study and part mystery - and one of those rare diamonds in the rough that you are happy to have discovered. Shot in New Zealand and originally screened at the Sydney Film Festival way back in 2004, IN MY FATHERíS DEN moves at a deliberate pace but is ultimately a satisfying and moving drama with a very dark edge. Sadly, director Brad McGann passed away earlier this year, but his refreshingly character and detail oriented approach reveals someone who had a true love of (and talent for) personal filmmaking.
The characters at the center of the film are believably written and richly realized. Matthew MacFayden makes us feel Paulís emotional wounds, gained from years of photographing and writing about some of mankindís most horrible atrocities. Now disillusioned and disconnected from the innocent days of youth, Paul sees some of his former self in teenage Celia, who aspires to be a writer just like him and who also may or may not be his estranged daughter. Thatís not giving too much away, as the film has much more in store. Young English actress Barclay gives an honest and heartbreaking performance as the idealistic dreamer who (much like Paul at her age) wants to experience the world to the fullest. Paul begins to take refuge in the secret basement den of his father (the title may be lame, but itís appropriate), and Celia joins him to discuss books, love and life. Donít worry, itís nothing predatory. Or is it? IN MY FATHERíS DEN has some grim surprises up its sleeve.
There are a few characters who probably could have been beefed up a bit, and those are Paulís brother Andrew (Colin Moy) and his wife Penny (Miranda Otto, the hot one who isnít the elf in LORD OF THE RINGS). Both performances are good but there is a sense there is more of an untold story there. Still, thatís a small quibble.
At times a bit too earnestly sentimental and self-absorbed, IN MY FATHER'S DEN also proves to be a bit confusing at times, because it doesn't reveal all of its cards until the very end, when there is a major twist. Chronology is shuffled around and the viewer might lose a clear grasp of the narrative as the film progresses, but everything does come together in the end. The mood is often very melancholy, and at times totally bleak. You wonít be smiling when this is over, but youíll feel like the journey was worth it.
Video / Audio
It's refreshing to see a film that devotes equal attention to the main plot as it does to every character's personal story. Many scenes are deeply felt with every line delivery and pause given some meaning. IN MY FATHERíS DEN is engaging and McGannís direction is superb. Itís great that this Kiwi film is finally getting a North American release. Very much recommended.