In My Father's Den

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In My Father's Den

(New Zealand-U.K.)

By Russell Edwards
Forbidden pasts and unlived futures are intimately entwined and judiciously unraveled in Kiwi meller "In My Father's Den." Adapted from the celebrated 1972 local novel by Maurice Gee, this feature bow by writer-director Brad McGann is a visually secure drama with an atmospheric edge and tastefully restrained artiness. Box office chances in English markets and Euro arthouses look good, while antipodean biz seems a shoo-in when released later this year. With a deliberately over-poetic voiceover from teenager Celia (Emily Barclay), film begins with images whose true significance is not revealed for several reels. Post-titles, pic settles down to introduce Paul Prior (Brit TV thesp Matthew MacFadyen, from "Spooks"), a celebrated war photojournalist who arrives after a long absence from his small hometown in New Zealand's South Island just too late to attend his father's funeral. Narrative haltingly presents Paul's resentful, stay-at-home, ostrich-farming brother, Andrew (Colin Moy), Andrew's neurotic wife, Penny (Australia's Miranda Otto, in a small but pivotal role) and their son, Jonathan (Jimmy Keen). While deciding whether to return to the northern hemisphere or fulfil family obligations of cleaning up after his father's life, Paul finds himself drawn to his father's secret den of maps, books, LP records and enigmatic artwork. First discovered by Paul as a teenager, the den was a secret haven in which his dad pursued intellectual interests and other clandestine pastimes, the sharing of which cemented a bond between Paul and his father in exclusion to brother Andrew and Paul's long-dead mother. This bond, and other parallel strands, are revealed via one of a series of flashbacks resembling what Quentin Tarantino once described as an "answers first, questions later" structure. Though "Reservoir Dogs" seems an unlikely reference point, "Den" is similarly informed and driven by initially confusing...
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