In My Father's Den London Movie Review (Jun 2005)

In My Father's Den


Four out of Five stars
Running time: 115 mins

Impressively directed, emotionally powerful drama with strong performances from McFadyen and Barclay.

In My Father's Den is the feature debut by New Zealand writer-director Brad McGann, who has adapted and updated a 1972 novel by Maurice Gee. An impressively directed drama, it remains emotionally engaging throughout, thanks to strong characterisation and superb performances from Matthew McFadyen and Emily Barclay.

The Story

McFadyen plays Paul Prior, a world-renowned war reporter who returns to his New Zealand hometown after an absence of 17 years, following the death of his father. His brother Andrew (Colin Moy) is both shocked and angry at Paul's return, especially when it transpires that their father left Paul a third of everything. Meanwhile, Paul discovers that his former girlfriend (Jodie Rimmer) has a teenaged daughter, Celia (Emily Barclay), who may or may not be his.

Paul takes a special interest in Celia, encouraging her to pursue her interest in writing and spending an uncomfortable amount of time with her in a secret den that was his father's hideaway. However, when Celia suddenly goes missing, several dark and disturbing secrets are revealed.

The structure of the film is extremely similar to 2002's Lantana, an Australian thriller that played similar editing tricks with the time-line of the movie and required the audience to play close attention to what was going on. Like Lantana, In My Father's Den also relies on strong characterisation and assured performances to hold our interest while the mystery slowly unravels.

The Acting

McFadyen is superb as Paul and the script cleverly passes off his English accent as his deliberate attempt to distance himself from his past. The story is set up so that you initially believe his family's perception of him as cold, emotionless and selfish, so the final revelations pack a considerable emotional punch, with McFadyen's performance suggesting that Clive Owen had better watch his back in future.

The supporting cast are equally strong, particularly Jodie Rimmer, Colin Moy and Miranda Otto, who shines in a small but important role. However, the stand-out is Emily Barclay, who gives an impressive performance that is tough, yet vulnerable at the same time.

There's very little in the way of humour in the film and this does become a little wearing after a while. However, it's beautifully shot and McGann makes strong use of the film's rural locations.

The Conclusion

In short, In My Father's Den is a cleverly structured, smartly written film that holds your attention to the end and delivers a powerful emotional kick thanks to its strong performances. McGann proves himself a talent to watch and both McFadyen and Barclay deserve to go on to great things after this. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by - Matthew Turner