In British writer/director Dan Wilde’s debut feature, the ‘alpha male’ in question is Jim Ferris (Danny Huston), a successful businessman who provides for all the needs of wife Alice (Jennifer Ehle) and children Jack and Elyssa. But when he dies suddenly, grief, jealousy and dysfunction fill the vacuum – until the family’s tensions surface a decade later at the 21st birthday party of Jack (Mark Wells).
Much like its characters, Alpha Male is haunted by the patriarch’s continuing presence, as flashbacks (and a ghostly visitation) document the family’s disintegration and fragile rehabilitation. It is subtly written, well performed and never mawkish, even if the action’s confinement to the grounds of the family mansion seems to make time drag. Set around family celebrations, it’s a kind of Three Birthdays And A Funeral – without Hugh Grant’s comic bumbling.