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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 15.79%
Average: 2.63%
Pretty Bad: 2.63%
Total Crap: 3.95%

1 review, 70 user ratings

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In My Father's Den
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Family plots"
4 stars

The New Zealand-UK co-production In My Fatherís Den is an adult drama-mystery in the vein of Lantana. Set in picturesque small-town New Zealand and centring on a dysfunctional family, the film is equal parts coming-of-age tale, returning home story and kinky gothic soap.

In My Fatherís Den opens and closes with a funeral. Paul Prior (British actor Matthew MacFadyen) hasnít seen his father since he fled home as a 17 year-old. Now a 30-something war journalist, he arrives late for his dadís memorial service, igniting the slow-burning fuse of brother Andrew (Colin Moy). Paul agrees to stay in town for a while and becomes the object of a schoolgirl crush. Sixteen year-old Celia (Emily Barclay) is the illegitimate daughter of Paulís first girlfriend (Jodie Rimmer). She wants to be a writer and feels as limited by her parochial neighbourhood as Paul. Their growing friendship attracts the ire of their families and the local community. When Celia disappears, Paul becomes the chief suspect.

In My Fatherís Den is the directorial debut of Brad McGann. He wrote the screenplay from a novel by Maurice Gee. As in Peyton Place and the worlds of David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks), thereís a seething underbelly to this idyllic town that involves voyeurism, auto-erotic asphyxiation, incest, sexual abuse, Oedipal complexes, mental illness, family violence, suicide, the ritualised humiliation of teenage girls and vigilantism. McGann avoids the salaciousness and surrealism of his forebears; the tone of In My Fatherís Den is brooding angst.

McGann would have done better to pare back the film, even if it meant losing some of the subplots. Like Lantana, it starts out a character drama and becomes a mystery story, but the first half of In My Fatherís Den meanders and threatens to lose focus. Many scenes add context to characters (such as the drunken teenage party) but little to the plot. McGann overburdens his film with symbolism Ė horses, an eagle, ostriches, seashells, an atlas. He is not content to merely have Celia recite poetry but we also have to listen to her reading her short story over the soundtrack. Sometimes less is more.

There are riveting performances from a strong cast, which includes Miranda Otto as Andrewís housebound wife. The permanently stubbled MacFadyen makes for an appealingly gruff ďlone wolfĒ lead. McGann and his editor deftly incorporate the inevitable flashbacks into the narrative. Cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh also shot The Piano and the ruggedly beautiful landscapes add texture to the characterís environments. Unfortunately, his interior scenes are so dark itís sometimes difficult to make out exactly whatís going on. Coupled with the muffled sound design (perhaps exacerbated by the poor acoustics of the cavernous State Theatre), it made the convoluted revelations and resolution of In My Fatherís Den somewhat hard to follow.

Nevertheless, the film remains absorbing and intriguing throughout. Itís both a bold debut for McGann and, as Opening Night film, a promising start to the 51st Sydney Film Festival.

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originally posted: 06/13/04 16:50:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2006 Portland Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/02/07 Ally Can't says its the best film. way to much to focus on. simple can be good too ya know! 3 stars
6/10/06 Kiara fantastic! just brilliant 5 stars
10/09/05 ELIZABETH BRILLIANT 5 stars
9/16/05 Penny Complex plot and characters. Staggering in its capacity to capture and affect viewer. 5 stars
7/04/05 Carol Gully Awesome drama,moments of extreme pathos!! 5 stars
6/28/05 Jen Unforgettable! 5 stars
6/28/05 Sze Wee Best movie I have watched this year 5 stars
6/24/05 pHil Engaging! Ending could've been more resolving. 4 stars
6/23/05 peter totally awesome 5 stars
6/13/05 roger bravo awesome bro 5 stars
6/12/05 J Howard Kept my interest all the way through. An intriguing film. 5 stars
5/17/05 Mark Riveting 5 stars
5/15/05 Mya Beautiful, painful, visceral, and bloody honest - great film. 5 stars
5/09/05 Laura Even better than Whale Rider! 5 stars
5/08/05 Ian The most BORING film I've seen in ages 3 stars
2/28/05 Joe atmospheric... subtle...gripping - a film you'd see more than once. 5 stars
2/17/05 Jane One of the best movies I've seen all year 5 stars
1/11/05 Katie Heath It hits you with full force at the end. Worth waiting for 5 stars
12/05/04 Hans Sander Fairly boring until the end 4 stars
12/02/04 Malcolm Fraser Engrossing, subtle, much much better than Lantana 5 stars
12/02/04 Dan Curry Reminded me of a great British movie - deep and courageous characterisatio 5 stars
11/27/04 Al Percival An excellent film 5 stars
11/21/04 Tui Authentic acting, totally captivating story. 5 stars
11/16/04 Kylie Burke Tragic and beautiful 5 stars
11/15/04 Adolph Coors Taught Editing 4 stars
11/15/04 Mel Brown Disappointing. Too many extra scenes not relevant to the plot, where it exists. Too long. 2 stars
11/14/04 Rob Laking Great lead performances and well-plotted script. 5 stars
11/12/04 Mark Petersen Great movie 5 stars
11/08/04 david fairhead it reminds me of what my father used to do to me im a homo 5 stars
11/07/04 Berry Jay From the the hand-wringing, chest-clutching school of acting, painful viewing. 1 stars
11/06/04 Ruth Saddick I loved the filming and the acting. The plot was a lttle tiring to follow at times!I 4 stars
11/05/04 Ashley one of the best movies i have ever seen, very emotional 5 stars
11/05/04 Wendy Clarke Fabulous 5 stars
11/04/04 bob The footsteps were done well 5 stars
11/03/04 mike it blows 1 stars
11/01/04 Bruce Thomas superb drama..great acting 5 stars
11/01/04 JustinCowen Why has NZ started to make so many good films? 5 stars
10/30/04 Robert Hughes Damn fine I must say. Blows most other NZ films away. 5 stars
10/25/04 Jenny Superb outstanding production...returns to the mind for days 5 stars
10/24/04 David Putnam Top class 5 stars
10/23/04 Rhonda Harrington Direction, Acting, Editing and Story all executed to the highest standards. Must see. 5 stars
10/22/04 Anita gripping 5 stars
10/21/04 pippa dark and beautiful film 5 stars
10/20/04 Kelly Dombroski So dark, subtle etc totally Kiwi subconscious 5 stars
10/17/04 Henry A subtle film about a variety of forms of love 5 stars
10/13/04 Gareth Faulkner Another excellent NZ drama! 4 stars
9/28/04 Keith Best of 15 films I saw at 2004 Toronto Film Fest 5 stars
9/20/04 Art Snob Best of 19 films I saw at 2004 Toronto Film Fest 5 stars
9/15/04 harryo fantastic..rowena email me 5 stars
9/13/04 Moira Bronson A gentle, unsettling, mature film that delivers on all fronts 5 stars
9/09/04 BC_Animus An engaging tale with a twist, supported by a great cast. 5 stars
8/13/04 Ine Great underlying story, its not you would expect 4 stars
8/02/04 Ann Wonderful acting, stunning photography, another great NZ production 5 stars
8/01/04 Rowena Singh brilliant 5 stars
7/31/04 Tony Clark Bloody Mindless film that fails to even side with the randomly murdered protagonist(Celia) 1 stars
7/24/04 T Handscomb Well done 5 stars
7/19/04 Ged Fantastic 5 stars
7/07/04 paul Stunning film, beautifully acted lead roles, strongly supported by the rest of the cast 5 stars
6/30/04 Mick Price Loved the performances, cinematography, direction - very cool. 5 stars
6/23/04 jill stanley simply brill 5 stars
6/21/04 Lou Fitzgerald I want to see it again - and what a weird review - not a mention about the girl. 5 stars
6/19/04 Sally Jones Fantastic, moving, gripping and totally compelling 5 stars
6/19/04 Dean Johansen This is a film for those of us who love a challenge - well done!!!! 5 stars
6/16/04 Sigrid Thompson Engaging and enriching. a film that I definitely want to see again. 5 stars
6/16/04 Frankie Woods Beautifully crafted. Who was the girl who played Celia - what a find!l More please. 5 stars
6/16/04 Gena Olson My favourite film at the festival so far. A brave film!! 5 stars
6/16/04 Michelle I thought it was fantastic 5 stars
6/15/04 Steven Loved it - challenging, original and sensitive. 5 stars
6/14/04 sydney_tom too try-hard 2 stars
6/13/04 Alan Maxwell This is one of the most emotional stimulating films you'll see 5 stars
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Directed by
  Brad McGann

Written by
  Brad McGann

  Matthew MacFadyen
  Miranda Otto
  Vicky Haughton
  Jodie Rimmer
  Emily Barclay
  Geoff Dolan

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