New Zealand-born, Denmark-based director Daniel Joseph Borgman returns with Resin, a lyrical family story that morphs into a dark thriller

Film Review by Adam Stafford | 12 Mar 2020
  • Resin
Film title: Daniel Borgman
Director: Daniel Borgman
Starring: Peter Plaugborg, Sofie Gråbøl, Vivelill Søgaard Holm

Something of a bleak marriage between Debra Grainik's Leave No Trace and the Belgium horror Calvaire, New Zealand-born, Denmark-based filmmaker Daniel Borgman brings us this eerie, somniferous and often considerate drama set on a Danish island where a family in self-imposed exile live far from the inhabitants of a small town.

Jens (Peter Plaugborg) is a domineering, paranoid and often violent father who, in the opening five minutes of the film, fakes his daughter's death in a drowning accident. The town's residents buy his story, which affords him and his wife Marie (Sofie Gråbøl), along with teenage daughter Liv (Vivelill Søgaard Holm, who is very much alive) the chance to live a life of solitude off-the-grid in a hunter/gatherer-style existence. It seems to be so idyllic for the family, but tenacious elderly woman Else arrives in town and insists on taking a cab up to the hermit's cottage against all advice. There she uncovers a world of chaos and squalor and threatens to expose Jens' family to the authorities.

Borgman's film is a union of the beautiful and ugly, of family bonds and co-existence between outliers within small communities. With the first half playing out like Malick's Badlands, it has an extremely onerous pace reflecting Liv's sense of wonder at her environs, with Louise McLaughlin's earthy cinematography a visual delight. Stand-out performances come from Plaugborg and Holm as father and daughter. The opening thirty minutes is focused on their close bond and has a real palpable sense of tenderness and yielding love. Also superb is Amanda Collin as Roald, the local bar owner who is suffering a family bereavement of her own and whose establishment Liv robs to keep supplies up.

But be warned, a lurch into thriller territory near the end and some scenes of dissection and embalming (in the resin of the eponymous title) cast a queasy pall to the proceedings and risk turning the film into a full-blown ordeal-drama. However, to his credit, Borgman chooses to let most of the grisly violence play-out off-screen, and the results are even more powerful for it.