Sarah Jayne’s short film Daughter takes a look at the ways in which women are viewed in society, following three main protagonists who cross paths one night on the streets of St Kilda, Australia.
This is a film with a good heart but not a great deal of style. One can’t help but wonder if this story should be a lot more interesting than it is. Scarlett, Jemma and Alethea all come from various different backgrounds and upbringings, and the film’s concept relies heavily on the unpredictability surrounding where the evening is going and who it will affect the most. Sadly, the film never really grabs the viewer’s attention enough to build that tension successfully.
It also fails to connect on an emotional level, as we aren’t given enough time to really bond with the characters. We see a little about Jemma, a prostitute working the streets at night, and we learn that Scarlett has had a difficult time recently, but we aren’t offered much else. We are expected to express concern over these characters, but are never given enough reason to.
It’s not enough to simply show us women in trouble. The script should give us a reason to sympathise with these three women in particular, and it fails to achieve that. The main flaw here is that the film seems too preoccupied with sending a message than it does telling an interesting story. Daughter feels less of a film than it does a lecture, even going on to have Katherine Langford give a speech and literally look at the camera. It’s possible to tell a story that also touches on serious themes and contains a message, but Sarah Jayne doesn’t seem to have gotten the balance right here.
The film isn’t that enticing to look at, either. It’s quite blandly shot, and the editing doesn’t always work, often feeling erratic and misjudged. The performances are also fairly hit and miss. Katherine Langford, who has recently found success in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, is fairly convincing as Scarlett, and Aisha Jakszewicz is engaging as Jemma, but Carolyn Rey is relatively awkward as Alethea, unable to show much conviction with what is already a wooden script.
There are genuinely good intentions behind Daughter, and the crowdfunding background behind the production demonstrates that there is clearly a great deal of support for the topics it’s discussing, but as a film in its own right it feels a little awkward and misplaced. The script is fairly week and the vision dull, and its performers are unable to bring much life to what little they have. The film isn’t letting its audience in, but rather talking directly at them in a way that almost feels patronising. Sarah Jayne is clearly a passionate filmmaker with a good heart, but Daughter feels like a misstep.
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