Daughter is a new thriller movie starring Ian Alexander as Brother. The actor discusses the nuanced story and their experience on set in an interview with The Illuminerdi.
Directed and written by Corey Deshon, Daughter is about a twisted family forged by lies. Father (Casper Van Dien) lives with Brother (Ian Alexander) and Mother (Elyse Dinh). The story begins when they kidnap a new “Daughter” (Vivian Ngo) to act as an older sibling to Brother.
Ian Alexander explains the centrality of patriarchy in the plot of Daughter and the process of getting into character.
DAUGHTER: IAN ALEXANDER ON PATRIARCHY & DISCOVERING BROTHER
“Brother is a really fascinating character. Definitely one of the more challenging roles I have prepared for, because there is so much going on with him. He grows up really repressed. All he knows is that he isn’t allowed to go outside and so everything that he’s ever experienced has been in a very sheltered controlled environment. And the patriarch of the family father is the one who calls all the shots and makes all the rules and is also one of his only friends aside from the other family members, his sister and his mother.
I think this movie says a lot about the patriarchy. Everything that Father says must be obeyed and the mother is expected to just be quiet and subservient and cook dinner for everyone and wash the dishes. So it’s very standard nuclear gender roles of – there is a father, and a mother and the father is the one who tells everyone what to do and the mother is the one that nurtures everyone and there is one boy and one girl. and it’s a very stereotypical nuclear family. I love how they kind of subvert the roles in a way, especially during the last act of the film. Daughter is introducing all these new ideas. She’s the rebellious one, she’s the one that’s pushing the limits because she doesn’t want to be confined to those tiny boxes that Father is trying to put her into.” -Ian Alexander
Daughter may be the titular character, but everything is allegedly set in motion for Brother. Father claims that everything he does, he does for his son. Brother is deeply brainwashed, unable to see the twisted truth of his sad reality. Daughter is brought into the family far more recently than Brother, and she yearns for escape to her old life. As such, and perhaps due to her seniority, it is Daughter, not Brother, who rebels, who stands up to father. She tries to bring color into their world so that she can save herself and this poor child.
Father is about the worst dad imaginable. He physically abuses his children and tells lies about the nature of reality. He forces his fake family to be people that they simply are not, forcing them into boxes where they do not belong. This makes for a shocking, powerful metaphor about the dangers of the stereotypical American nuclear family.
While the specific religion that Father practices with his false family is never specified, certain things are clear about it. The faith focuses on obedience to the patriarch and an understanding that disobedience equates punishment. Furthermore, a scriptural text is central to their lives. The religion is a part of their lives every day, and non-believers are seen as sick and lost. Beliefs like these can apply to a number of religions, but most of us were only raised in one faith.
Ian Alexander was raised in the LDS or “Mormon” church. The Mormon religion was created by Joseph Smith in America in the early 1800s. Infamous for their historical practice of polygamy, the Mormon faith teaches strict adherence to patriarchal hierarchies in almost every aspect of life. Mormon or Ex-Mormon viewers of Daughter are sure to notice some overt similarities between Brother’s life and the life of the average Mormon youth.
Ian Alexander explains how his childhood in the Mormon church influenced his performance. He also describes the metaphorical layering of the finale and the commentary Daughter makes on certain religious practices.
IAN ALEXANDER EXPLAINS HOW BEING RAISED MORMON PREPARED HIM FOR DAUGHTER
“I can relate to this character in some ways, I grew up Mormon so both my parents are very religious. I lived in a pretty sheltered environment, so I was pulling a lot from my own childhood experiences for this character. He’s so repressed and so limited that you can tell he is just bursting at the seams to express himself in ways. He’s only allowed to play a few board games, he’s only allowed to read things his father approves of, so he has a very short list of activities that are father approved. You can tell there’s so much bubbling and boiling, ready to erupt with Brother. He’s just teetering that line between being this close to snapping, and I think he was just a really complicated character to play. I had a great time getting to play off of the energy of Vivian Ngo, Casper Van Dien and Elyse Dinh as well.
I really hope that [Mormons & Ex-Mormons] are able to understand the message behind Daughter and I am hoping that my parents will watch this movie. I’m not sure how well it would be received, but I think it very intentionally is making commentary on how having such a limited worldview could end up hurting them and you in the process. Because at the very end, Father really reaps what he sows. He has created a monster. It’s metaphorical, obviously we aren’t going to go around with a hammer and go off on people. For me that scene at the end represents not a literal death, but a death of a relationship with your parents.” -Ian Alexander
We’re not going to dig into the spoilery details on the conclusion of the film, but suffice to say that Alexander’s explanation will make you want to rewatch the film. Daughter is so heavily layered with insight on and critiques of parenting, religion. There are symbols, metaphors and moments with double meanings. The relationship between Father and Brother is not just dad and son, it is also a religious mentor-mentee relationship. Father is passing on his perverse beliefs onto Brother and molding this child in his own image. Eventually, that comes full circle.
When creative expression and emotional intelligence are repressed in the name of faith, people become ticking time bombs. Brother’s repression goes further than the experience of most, but his life is closer to reality for many than we may be comfortable admitting. Daughter shines a light on families who raise their young in a manner similar to Father and asks for change by showing the consequences of his actions.
Despite the bleak childhood of Brother and the lack or resources he faces, he still creates beautiful works of art. Ian Alexander explains the power of abstract art and the importance of diversity on all parts of the set.
For more of our interview with Ian Alexander, continue to page 2: