Prisoner’s Daughter is one of those movies with so much talent and star power on both sides of the camera that it makes you wonder why it hasn’t received more attention. The reason is a simple one: because the film itself is overly familiar family melodrama, the kind that gets dropped into streaming or a handful of theaters dozens of times a year. But when you’ve got the likes of Brian Cox, still riding a Succession career resurgence, Kate Beckinsale, Ernie Hudson, and breakout child actor Christopher Convery working with veteran filmmaker Catherine Hardwicke, it’s impossible not to be gripped by it all the same.
Cox is always a bruising, intimidating actor, but it informs the moments when his vulnerability is laid bare. He brings all of that to the table as Max, a career criminal released from prison to face something even worse. He’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and only has a short time left to live. And one of the things he wants to do is make amends with his estranged daughter, Maxine (Beckinsale), and build a relationship with her son, Ezra (Convery).
Of course, this will prove to be a tough challenge as there are a lot of hurt feelings and long-standing grudges. Max was rarely around as a father, leaving Maxine alone to struggle with her mother, who fell victim to alcoholism. She has also been forced to raise her son alone, fighting off the unwanted attentions of Ezra’s deadbeat father Tyler (Tyson Ritter) who just keeps hanging around.
The frayed connections between these damaged people are easily recognizable. So too is the heartwarming bond that begins to grow between Max and Ezra, offering the former a shot at redemption and the latter a father-figure worth respecting. Mark Bacci’s screenplay leans on the plot’s predictability. We can’t help but root for Maxine to make amends with her father and set Ezra on the right path so that he can escape the cycle of family anguish.
Hardwicke will probably always be known as the director who first brought Twilight to the big screen, but he tastes are wide-ranging and unpredictable. Prisoner’s Daughter marks her second feature film of the year, with the mob dramedy Mafia Mamma opening just weeks ago. The two films couldn’t be more different in most respects, but they both feature strong lead female performances as mothers on the brink. Beckinsale is great here, and it’s a reminder that she’s an actress who deserves better than she’s been getting of late. Convery, a rising star from Brahms: The Boy II and a small scene in Succession, holds his own opposite Cox and shows tons of promise.
As far as domestic dramas go, Prisoner’s Daughter offers few surprises and that includes the uniformly excellent performances by its cast. Unfortunately, this understated film isn’t going to make any waves and will fly under most radars.
Prisoner’s Daughter opens on June 30th.