In the last year, I saw a film (“In My Father’s Den“) with much the same themes. In that New Zealand film, a man, a celebrated war correspondent returns to his rural home on the death of his father. There are significant unresolved frictions between father and son. The returning man had sex with a girl when a boy, had left immediately thereafter, and that drives the tension. People are unhappy (the man burns his dad’s stuff) but some unknown facts about the youthful relationship (there is a brother who hid something) are revealed and the man is freed of his ghosts.
The similarity with this story is so striking that it distracted me. Although I cannot recall its name, that film managed to mix the emotions of rambling in inner hurt with the curiosity of a detective far better than this, and was thus more engaging.
This is adapted for the screen and directed by an actress for her husband, who plays the dying father. So it is no wonder that the structure of the long form is sacrificed for the power of certain scenes with the old man. And it is no wonder that unduly long episodes are included to establish character, for instance, we have a quarter of the film between our returning fellow and the dopey girl he brings with him. As far as we can tell, this is to show how messed up he is with women. Meanwhile, we get nothing about his life as a writer other than he is successful and writes autobiographically inspired pieces. Wouldn’t this have been important, since the implication in all such situations is that we are reading his work in seeing the story?
The scenery is compelling but not folded into the story. While others may find the acting adequate or better, the only role that seemed real to me was the girl of the title. She plays a maturing Lolita temptress, and the cinematic handing of her is really quite superb. She flits in and out of the story for the first two thirds in such a way that we know she is the ghost. But then again, I just saw a similar character in “Carried Away” that was so much better integrated between the dramatic unfolding and the camera eye.
So put this one down as appealing scenery, and another entry in the directors who direct their lovers database.
Posted in 2010
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.