13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Intricate, haunting, beautiful little film,
This review is from: In My Father's Den [DVD]  (DVD)I watched this for the first time in 2005, too tired to fully appreciate it. Now, after seeing it again a few times, I'm just simply blown away by its slow, thoughtful pacing, brooding atmosphere and intricate storyline. It seems like a fairly straightforward story at first, but it isn't, and the different storylines start to intertwine in unsuspected ways slowly but surely as the story unfolds. To me this is in no way a thriller or a "whodunnit" story. The disappearance of Celia, for me, isn't the central storyline at all. It's the connection, and the nature of that connection, between this young, bright, dreamy girl and a disconnected, damaged man scarred by his job as a war photographer, but also, as we slowly learn, by events during his own teenage years.
The performances are very natural and intense. Matthew MacFadyen, as the not so easy to like, emotionally scarred Paul, completely pulled me in from the moment he arrives on the train. The young girl playing Celia was strikingly natural and strangely quirky, which fitted her part brilliantly. The scenes between them echo a silent tenderness and connection that completely drew me into their damaged little world. The cinematography of the NZ landscape in different seasons is also stunning and beautifully intertwined with the non-chronological storytelling (seeing the seasons change helped me to make sense of the storyline, as it jumps forwards and backwards in time a lot). This story takes its time to unfold, and doesn't take the easy route to its surprising and painful conclusions. I have been rewatching this a few times now (updated this review in january 2013), and I keep finding little details and twists in the storyline I hadn't noticed before. Not a film if you have a short attention span, but if you're willing to sit this one out, you won't regret it.
The only thing that put me off was the fact that UK censorship decided to cut out a scene that I thought was very meaningful. It concerned a short sex scene, unrevealing when it comes to nudity, but all the more revealing when it comes to Paul's incapacity to handle emotional closeness to another human being. The scene shows how Paul auto-asphyxiates with his belt while he's having anonymous sex with some woman he picked up in a bar. It shows just how emotionally disconnected this character is, and I was very sorry to see that scene go because of that. There are versions that have retained it (the Australian/NZ R4 version, which I own besides the R2 UK version I bought later because my new pc wouldn't play R4 dvds).
5 stars out of 5, although I was tempted to go for 4 stars for the unnecessary censorship and the lack of any subtitles. But I love this film so much I'm willing to pass over those little flaws.