Hedvig, portrayed by Odessa Young in a noteworthy breakthrough performance, is the daughter of Oliver (Ewen Leslie) and Charlotte (Miranda Otto), and she navigates her way around adolescence, spending time with her grandfather Walter (Sam Neill) in his individually crafted home for injured animals. He, like the majority of characters within this labyrinthine tale, has a murky past – which generally consists of the time he spent in the company of the local, affluent businessman Henry (Geoffrey Rush). The imprint the latter has left on this family is undeniably devastating, while many secrets bubble under the surface, secrets that could cause major issues if Henry’s erratic, alcoholic son Christian (Paul Schneider) was to open his mouth, as he returns back to Australia for his father’s wedding.
As we adopt the perspective of Hedvig it provides the picture with a certain sense of purity that derives from her endearingly blissful outlook on life, while conversely adding a volatility to proceedings given her temperamental age. Young excels in the leading role, making up a full house of impressive performances. The narrative has been crafted in a shrewd manner too, as each character’s own development is handled efficiently, and we seamlessly move between the contrasting plot-lines, each connecting to the other with a minimum contrivance as the dots are joined.
However we do veer down a somewhat unfortunate melodramatic path, moving away from subtlety, instead theatrically (and overtly) bringing this Henrik Ibsen play (The Wild Duck) to life. Yet director Simon Stone must be commended for remaining resourceful and creative in his approach, and doing so without any sense of pretension – which, as we see so often in film, isn’t always a task that is particularly easy to pull off.