TIFF Gala Presentations Section
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Writer: Marc Bacci
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Brian Cox, Christopher Convery, Tyson Ritter, Jon Huertas
Presented at: Scotiabank Theatre, Ontario, 9/15/22
Opening: September 14e2022 (Toronto International Film Festival)
An older man, no longer the same hardened criminal he once was, is released from prison. He attempts to reconnect with the adult daughter who wants nothing to do with him and longs to form a relationship with a grandchild who doesn’t even know him. This premise has been explored many times before, and usually leads to one of two possible endings: that protagonist’s successful redemption or the inevitability of their regression. prisoner’s daughter offers a less than fresh take, one that feels entirely formulaic.
Max (Brian Cox) has been in prison for twelve years and, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, is offered to serve his sentence under house arrest, provided his daughter, Maxine (Kate Beckinsale), is willing to assume his responsibility. After initially refusing to consider her request, Maxine relents because she desperately needs the money to cover epilepsy medication for her twelve-year-old son, Ezra (Christopher Convery). Max’s presence changes things for Maxine, who tells her father not to tell her grandson who he really is, as she struggles to hold down a job and keep Ezra away from his badly influenced drug addict father Tyler ( Tyson Ritter).
prisoner’s daughter comes from director Catherine Hardwicke, who has already proven herself extremely capable of engaging with difficult teenage characters in Thirteen almost two decades ago. Ezra, who comes off as extremely precocious, correcting his mother’s grammar and questioning Max immediately after meeting him, has trouble at school with bullies, but he’s the one who has the least to worry about. his family members. Like the adults, however, he doesn’t feel so authentic, and the coincidence that he’s dealing with an increasingly violent bully at the same time as his former convicted boxer grandfather seems a bit too convenient.
There is also a moral issue at play in this film. Maxine can’t stand the thought of seeing her father because she remembers him as an enforcer, someone who hurt people in the service of others. Yet Max, for all his apparent enlightenment and the network he’s built of people willing to do anything for him because he didn’t speak up when he went to jail, teaches his grandson that the best way to respond to violence is with more violence. Maxine has a similar attitude, first wondering why Ezra doesn’t run away from bullies, then being proud of his ability to fight back. Tyler is supposed to be the bad example, but it’s not like the other authority figures in Ezra’s life are much more honorable.
Beckinsale, who anchored a different kind of drama in Nothing but the truth and headlining last year’s action movie jerk, plays Maxine as an exhausted, overworked claimant who can’t get anyone to understand everything she does and how little credit she gets. It’s a great performance but doesn’t add much to an unwritten character. Cox, who is now best known for his portrayal of cruel patriarch Logan Roy on Succession, tones down its intensity for a more sensitive and ultimately less fulfilling ride. Convery is promising, but finds it difficult to convey the impression that the dialogue spoken by Ezra really comes from the mouth of a twelve-year-old child. These people might exist but they don’t feel quite real. The victories and obstacles they encounter are expected and not as emphatic as expected, and the film doesn’t quite earn its ending, which also feels overly simplistic, a grand notion that just isn’t quite as authentic.
History – C+
Overall – C+