Prisoner's Daughter (2023)

Prisoner's Daughter (2023)

A decently made but formulaic melodrama that never arrives at the emotions it wants to elicit

5.5

Movie

United States of America
English, Portuguese
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
2023
CATHERINE HARDWICKE, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Brian Cox, Christopher Convery, Chuti Tiu
98 min

TLDR

Producers throwing darts at the wall: "Okay guys, so we're doing prison, cancer, drug addicts, aaand epilepsy."

What it's about

Down on her luck and struggling to raise her epileptic son, a woman allows her estranged father to stay at home with them while on parole from his latest stint in prison.

The take

Yet another drama designed to be emotional without actually doing the heavy lifting to get us invested, Prisoner's Daughter takes the easy way out at every turn, mistaking its use of capital-I Issues and dramatic plot points for substantial writing. This doesn't mean that the film itself isn't still watchable and competently performed (by a typically strong Brian Cox, but especially by Kate Beckinsale); it just fails to make a statement about any of its disparate parts mashed together. At the end of the day, it feels as if the film doesn't have enough faith in the already complex and difficult relationship at its center, so it attempts to dress it up with prison, cancer, drug addicts, and epilepsy—which only cheapens what's already there.

What stands out

Any scene where Beckinsale and Cox get to share time together and really just act without any distractions is time well spent. The dynamic between Maxine and Max is ultimately kept too simple in the long run, but in individual scenes you can tell that the two actors are doing their darnedest to create a complicated dynamic between their characters. Maxine keeps her father at arm's length out of spite for being abandoned, but also out of shame for not being much better as a parent (at least from her perspective). Meanwhile, Max wants to do whatever he can to help given his fatal diagnosis, but knows he has no right to intrude upon his daughter's life, having accepted all the pain he's caused. It's a good relationship that deserves a better movie.

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