In his atmospheric debut film, Australian theater director Simon Stone whittles down The Wild Duck into a cautionary tale about welcoming home an emotional exile. While stage adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s tragicomedy often emphasize its farcical elements, Stone sticks to tragedy in his naturalistic version, set in densely planted logging forests and a rural community of abandoned factories and few opportunities. This loose modern adaptation presents long-buried secrets as landmines on the road to happiness and strips away the play’s philosophical clash between idealism and illusion, Ibsen’s rationale for an alienated scion of the ruling class wielding truth like a weapon -- and destroying his best friend’s fragile family structure by revealing the lie it was built upon.
When Christian Nielsen (Paul Schneider) reunites with Oliver Finch (Ewen Leslie) after nearly 20 years, they leap back to being teenagers, overlooking the time apart and events that made their paths diverge. Christian has reluctantly returned to attend the wedding of his father Henry (Geoffrey Rush), who’s just announced that the Nielsen family business, a sawmill that employs most of the town, will be shutting down. This barely registers for Christian, who's surrounded by memories of his mother’s suicide and trying to prevent the collapse of his own marriage.
Oliver sees a contented life instead of a compromised one, and thinks little about the Finch family’s ties to Henry. Christian’s revelation makes him reconsider everything. These faint echoes of Ibsen don’t lift The Daughter above the average family drama about exposing secrets and lies, but Stone's addition -- the sense that accumulated disappointment triggers tragedy -- is poignant.