This Kiwi-UK co-production is a slow-burning mystery thriller impressively rich in the detail of character. Every relationship is real, captured with uncommon precision and economy. MacFadyen is faultlessly compelling and Emily Barclay as the enigmatic Celia is mesmerizing, nailing the nuances of the growing teen. The New Zealand landscapes are beautifully shot, hinting at the longings and claustrophobia of the local community. Writer-director Brad McGann spins the tale slowly, upping the sense of mystery with subtle twists to time, past and present interplaying. Celia’s hypnotically lulling voiceover deepens the spirituality. The themes of personality, memory and the past are underscored with effective use of music - tape recorders and record players are there in the scenes, while the film’s own score is low-key. And the absolute silence of the soundtrack in the key emotional scenes gives a raw power to already edgy performances.
Unsettling and engaging, In My Father’s Den succeeds brilliantly as a study of character and identity less so as a truly satisfying mystery. But it’s the company you keep that makes this such a superior and affecting film. Recommended.