Kate Beckinsale has been a kick-ass action hero (Underworld), a rom-com star (Serendipity), a period-piece heroine (The Golden Bowl), a seductress (The Only Living Boy in New York), and a scream queen (Vacancy). In her latest film, she plays a single mom trying to scrape together a life for herself and her teenage son.
And while she’s been good in all her various screen incarnations, her work in Prisoner’s Daughter reminds audiences just how great she can be with a solid story to tell.
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Prisoner’s Daughter tells the story of Maxine (Beckinsale) and her son, Ezra (Christopher Convery, Brahms, The Boy II), living on the seedier side of Las Vegas. Like many Americans, even living from paycheck to paycheck is barely enough for Maxine to keep her head above water, and the added anchors of a son with epilepsy who needs expensive medicine, an unsupportive ex-husband who is a junkie, and a father who has been in prison drag her further down every day.
It’s a tough life, and Beckinsale brings it to painful life with an understated but effective performance, one that lets you see what she is going through and at the same time dares you defiantly to say anything about it. So when Maxine gets a call from her father, Max (Brian Cox, Succession), telling her that he is dying from cancer and eligible for compassionate leave if she will take him in, you root for her to say no. In the short time you’ve spent with her in the movie, you also know that that is not who Maxine is. So she says yes.
From this point on, the plot of Prisoner’s Daughter is pretty predictable; what Beckinsale and Cox do with the material is not. Playing the role of a man trying to make amends before he dies, Cox hits all the right notes, whether Max is dealing with his violent past or trying to build a tenuous day-to-day future with his refound family. At times, the role seems almost too easy for Cox, something he could do without breaking a sweat. But look closer; it takes a lot of skill to inhabit a character so thoroughly, and the best do it without letting the audience know how hard it can be. With Max, Cox proves (yet again) that he is one of the best.
So is Beckinsale. If she hasn’t shown viewers already in the scenes with her son and her interaction with the world before her dad arrives, watch what she does with Cox. It’s thrilling, much more so than the story. And while nobody will want to see a sequel, or a prequel, here’s hoping Cox and Beckinisale get to tell a few more cinematic stories in the future.