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Paul (Matthew Macfadyen), a prize-winning war photojournalist, returns to his remote New Zealand home town on his father's death, battle-scarred and world-weary. For the discontented 16-year-old Celia (Emily Barclay) he opens up a world she has only dreamed of. She actively pursues a friendship with him, fascinated by his cynicism and experience of the world beyond her small-town existence. But Paul is not entirely welcome in the town, and long held grudges and secrets slowly boil to the top when Celia disappears and Paul is suspected of being involved. The most shattering family secret and Celia's fate collide.

Review by Louise Keller:
Richly complex in both its genre and emotional impact, In My Father's Den is a riveting drama, marrying a poignant coming of age story with mystery thriller elements. New Zealand writer/director Brad McGann magnifies the complexity of this story from Maurice Gee's novel, by the straightforward telling and isolated setting. Fathers have a lot to answer for, says sixteen year old Celia to Paul. This story's heart reveals how much indeed, they have to answer for.

The film excels at its ability to draw us from one emotional layer to the next. Beginning as a story about coming home, Paul is a local boy who has made-good in the big smoke. He has left behind his New Zealand twang, together with the small-town mentality and the painful memories long-ago buried. A challenging career as an acclaimed, respected photo journalist has given him more than enough to keep his mind from the bitterness of the day he left - a resentful brother, tragic mother, unfathomable father and the local girl who had his name tattooed on her toes.

Matthew MacFadyen's Paul wonderfully conveys a man whose outer layer has shielded him from his own vulnerability. Reminiscent of a young John Cusack or Russell Crowe (especially the rich timbre of voice), it's a strong central performance that will hopefully bring good roles to the talented MacFadyen.

We tag along as Paul is confronted by memories, as days when he used to sit in his father's deserted den, dreaming of discovering the world. There's the pain of loss as past moments become real again. And then he meets Celia. The irony that Celia also uses the den for her private moments is not lost on us. It's at this point that the focus of the protagonist shifts to the idealistic 16 year old who declares she would rather be a 'nobody who is somewhere' than a 'somebody who is nowhere'. New Zealand actress Emily Barclay is riveting as the impishly faced tomboy determined to make her mark.

There's such beauty in the development of the relationship between Paul and Celia and succinct editing brings dynamic rhythms to the shattering climactic scenes that detonate as surely as a time bomb. McGann knows exactly what he wants and all the cast delivers: Colin Moy as Paul's bitter brother, Miranda Otto as the hauntingly troubled Penny and Jodie Rimmer as Celia's mother who struggles to cope with her emotions. This is a story of secrets - secrets that seem even more sordid in breathtakingly beautiful remote New Zealand settings, where snowy peaks are a backdrop to glistening rivers and verdant hills.

The genre gradually changes to include its mystery and thriller elements, and numerous red herrings are thrown in our path, making the film's final moments all the more surprising. The rural community becomes real to us and although the film (like life) does not offer easy solutions, we feel satisfied by the encounter.

DVD special features include and audio commentary with director Brad McGann, producer Trevor Haysom and actress Emily Barclay, a look behind the scenes plus an award-winning short film called Possum, by McGann.

Published April 14, 2005

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(New Zealand)

CAST: Emily Barclay, Matthew MacFadyen, Miranda Otto, Colin Moy, Jimmy Keen, Toby Alexander, Geoff Dolan, ADD CELIA'S MOTHER

PRODUCER: Trevor Hayson, Dixie Linder


SCRIPT: Brad McGann (novel by Maurice Gee)


EDITOR: Chris Plummer

MUSIC: Simon Boswell


RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director Brad McGann, actress Emily Barclay and producer Trevor Haysom; Possum - award-winning short film by Director Brad McGann; Behind-the-scenes clips and footage; Trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: April 13, 2005

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