The launches of Matt Saville’s A Month of Sundays and Simon Stone’s The Daughter at international film festivals are paying off with critical acclaim for both.
Saville’s dramedy, which stars Anthony LaPaglia as a real estate agent whose life takes an unexpected turn when he receives a call from his dead mother, sending him on a journey of redemption, premiered in the contemporary world cinema section of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Stone’s re-imagining of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck, which features Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Ewen Leslie, Paul Schneider, Anna Torv, Miranda Otto and newcomer Odessa Young, which had its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival, screened at the Venice Film Festival’s Venice Days followed by its North American premiere at TIFF’s special presentations sidebar.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer hailed A Month of Sundays as a “modest, warm hearted character study (which) is carried by a solid lead performance from Anthony LaPaglia, who plays a man unable to express his feelings through anything but underhanded snark.
“Saville’s script doesn’t try to break any new ground, but it does paint a series of amusingly believable characters who each deal in their own way with the onset of old age and death. Tackling such big-ticket issues through wry observations and an undercutting sense of humor, the film takes its sweet time to eventually get to the point, but the assured direction gives every sequence a quiet, bittersweet feel tone that never feels overstated.”
Mintzer predicted the film could find art house buyers in Anglophone territories, with additional bookings on TV, VOD and other select ancillary platforms.
Screen Daily's Sarah Ward opined that Saville's third feature after Noise and Felony sees the writer-director showing a lightness of touch as he moves into wryly comic, gently dramatic territory.
While the plot deals with well-worn notions of redemption and acceptance involving family and mortality, she found the strongly-written characters and good performances, particularly by LaPaglia, "enliven the film’s brush with the familiar."
The first narrative feature from Madman Production Co, it’s produced by Nick Batzias, Saville and Kirsty Stark and will be released by Madman in early 2016. Visit Films is handling international sales.
Variety’s Eddie Cockrell sparked to The Daughter as “deeply involving and emotionally searing,” marking a confident and profoundly moving bigscreen debut for theatre director Simon Stone.
“Those familiar with Henrik Ibsen’s play, which Stone freely adapted for the Sydney stage in 2011, will find its themes of the haunted past detonating in the present and the gulfs in class and gender fully intact,” Cockrell said.
“Yet Stone’s radical retooling of the story details, characters and setting has yielded something urgent and new, and the low-key, naturalistic approach to his direction of a fine cast — a rare tonal quality in contempo Australian drama — should ensure busy international fest play and the rapt attention of distribs seeking quality fare.”
The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang declared, “A highly polished film that belies the soap opera melodrama of its plotline by having the twists and turns spring directly from well-observed human behaviour, Stone's The Daughter is a quiet, immensely affecting triumph that proves how, contrary to accepted wisdom, there are secrets that would better remain untold.”
She said the film bears no trace of its stage-bound origins, with Stone making the transition to screen in “rich, resonant and resolutely cinematic fashion, perfectly complemented by DP Andrew Commis' restrained, evocative framing and subdued, elegant palette.”
The Film Stage's Ed Frankl declared, "The acting is superb, headed by two Antipodean heavyweights in Rush and Neill, both in restrained less-is-more modes. The 16-year-old Odessa Young, as the titular daughter Hedvig, is a passionate addition exploring a new-found sexuality and shooting cans with her boyfriend using her grandfather’s shotgun – one that has a role to play in forthcoming events."
Jan Chapman and Nicole O’Donohue produced The Daughter, which Roadshow will release next March.