Published Sep 02, 2013The first few minutes of The Daughter, an unequivocal allegory about Greece's economic crisis, are fine, poetic and pointed: shots of forestry workers travelling in flatbed trucks, an ax at rest, trees pointing toward an eternal sky. This introduction alludes to capitalism, where everything, from a person's time to a forest of trees, has a direct correlation to goods and services, not to mention the possibility of profit. It also prepares the viewer for the film's main set: a lumberyard.
Myrto (Savina Alimani), the teenage daughter at the centerpiece of the film, discovers that her father is missing and in debt. He is a supplier of fine woods. She suspects that his business partner—the salesman to her father's craftsman—is to blame for the company's collapse and abducts his young son as counterattack, seemingly without an overall plan.
Holed up in the workshop and surrounded by timber and tools, Myrto teases, edifies and intimidates her young captive. During their time together, she reads him words from the dictionary: "debt", "responsibility" and "dissolution". This blatant, though still powerful, comment on the greed that led to the financial woes of Greece, implicates not only the young boy's father, but also both youngsters. No one is blameless, but some pay more than others.
Myrto's murky act of vengeance—her attempt to combat the wrong done to her father—seems a faulty, desperate response, but an understandable one. It's an extreme act of defiance. While the son's naiveté (e.g., his ignorance of the most mundane of tasks, such as how to make a bed) annoys her, it is his passivity that elicits the most antagonism, leading to a series of sibling-like harassment that grows in intensity.
But since this psychological thriller is more interested in ethical investigation than it is in exacting cheap thrills, the threat of physical harm is only ever that: a threat. As Myrto's tactics become more ominous—from dropping wood shavings on him to holding tin snips to his finger—the true terror of the situation is revealed: the thin grey line of morality.
Despite its flat-footed climax, the film's artfully composed shots, expressive use of sound and quiet tension elevate this surprisingly literal moral tale. Anchored by the captivating performance of its lead, The Daughter presents a portrait of fury against feelings of impotence. As a girl who refuses to go gentle into adulthood, Myrto forces the viewer to grapple with some interesting questions: What do you do when things go wrong, when life doesn't turn out as you thought it would, when you feel alone?