A moody, quite compelling lead performance from British actor Matthew MacFadyen – soon to fill Darcy’s breeches in the upcoming ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – almost holds together this promising debut drama from New Zealand writer-director Brad McGann. MacFadyen plays jaundiced photojournalist Paul (his on-screen war photographs are those of the South African Greg Marinovich) who returns to his picaresque rural South Island home for his father’s funeral after a presumed absence of some 17 years. The early part of the movie ably surveys the familiar Antipodean territory of the disconnected returning ‘hero’ as Paul picks up the tangled threads of his relationships with his resentful ostrich-farmer brother, his strained sister-in-law and his old flame Jackie, and diffidently deals with his celebrity status and his brother’s demands over their father’s estate. McGann then vamps up the film into a ‘Lantana’-lite psychological thriller (police investigate the disappearance of an ambitious, literate and restless teenage girl whom Paul befriends), doubles his already complex matrix of timeframes and loses the plot.There’s much to applaud, however. McGann is good on atmosphere, conducts the major set-ups with confidence, is adventurous with his use of music and elicits some nicely judged performances, not least from Emily Barclay as the teenage girl (Paul’s doppelgänger?). ‘The Piano’ cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, too, provides attractive location work that highlights the smallsville delights of Roxburgh. But the director’s realist observational skills become overwhelmed by the symbolic freight inherited from co-writer Maurice Gee’s neo-Gothic source novel. The ending is poor. Revealed secrets and Freudian revelations arrive like brakeless express trains: the ‘return of the repressed’ as a multiple pile-up.