War journalist Paul Prior returns home for his father's funeral having left at age seventeen. Staying on to help his brother Andrew (Colin Moy, Riverworld) clear out the house, Paul is inundated with memories of his childhood; his relationship with his father, his mother's suicide and affair with ex-girlfriend Jackie (Jodie Rimmer, Snakeskin). At the center of all of these memories is his father's den - a secret room filled with books and atlases which he discovered as a boy and where he dreamed of traveling the world.
Taking a temporary teaching position at the local school, Paul befriends ex-girlfriend Jackie's sixteen year old daughter, Celia (Emily Barclay). When Celia goes missing, Paul is the prime suspect.
The ending is gut wrenching.
Emily Barclay's debut is excellent, but without question, Matthew Macfadyen's acting makes this movie.
I so look forward to seeing more of his acting in the future. Macfadyen has the ability to make you forget you're watching a movie and isn't that what all actors should aspire to?
Paul Prior, a troubled war photographer returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral. In his father’s secret study he discovers a 16-year-old girl, Celia, taking refuge from the world outside. The stage is set for a family drama, the unearthing of buried secrets, an enduring and beautiful friendship and, ultimately, tragedy. All this is lovingly captured in the human scenery of spectacular New Zealand and embroidered with details from the most subtle and sublime of imaginations. Past and present are beautifully handled as the film moves towards its unhappy and yet ultimately uplifting ending.
This will inevitably draw comparisons with Whale Rider: if only because of the paucity of Kiwi films that reach us in the UK. Unlike Whale Rider, In My Father’s Den requires no knowledge of New Zealand to appreciate fully. But one thing they share is a shockingly precocious performance by a teenager in a lead role. As the outsider Celia, Emily Barclay is beautifully poised and infinitely believable. MacFayed is also wonderful as the unsettled Paul, and the interactions between the two are a delight to behold. This is an uncompromising film but it is not brutal: as it ends in typically understated terms, you will be left with hope in the power of dreams and friendship. A treasure of a film that deserves to be seen all over the world.
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