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|Mr. Morgans Last Love|
dir-scr Sandra Nettelbeck
prd Astrid Kahmke, Frank Kaminski, Philipp Kreuzer, Ulrich Stiehm
with Michael Caine, Clemence Poesy, Justin Kirk, Jane Alexander, Gillian Anderson, Anne Alvaro, Michelle Goddet, Christelle Cornil, Alix Poisson, Ian Fenelon, Alexis Goslain, Deshaun Strong
release US 1.Nov.13, UK 11.Jul.14
French connection: Poesy and Caine
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A gentle pace and some deeply felt themes make this quiet drama worth a look, as it explores the meaning of family from some unusual angles. The low-key approach makes the two-hour running time feel rather over-long, but each scene features interaction that's both engaging and identifiable.
In Paris, Matthew Morgan (Caine) still misses his wife Joan (Alexander) three years after her death, imagining her with him as he visits their favourite parts of the city they called home. One day on a bus he meets Pauline (Poesy), who reminds him of Joan. And since he reminds Pauline of her late father, a friendship develops. Which raises alarm bells when Matthew's son Miles (Kirk) and busy daughter Karen (Anderson) come to see him. But Pauline realises that the true issue is that Matthew has never related to his children as a father.
Despite the misleading title, the film isn't strictly a romance: it's about those indescribable human connections that change the course of a person's life. Matthew and Pauline develop an easy rapport that feels honest and organic, sparking all kinds of possible directions the the story might take. And as Miles enters the scene (Karen is too busy with her own life to get involved), things shift further. All of this is captured with delicacy by filmmaker Nettelbeck, who refuses to over-dramatise anything.
This of course gives the actors space to develop complex, textured characters. Even if some of the more plot-driven aspects of the story feel forced, the people on-screen are recognisably authentic. Caine's American accent may meander a bit, but he finds Matthew's emotional centre so vividly that the film sometimes feels unbearably sad. Fortunately, Poesy brightens things up considerably, offering an observant perspective that makes sharp sense of her tricky character. And Kirk is also superb in a role that could easily have drifted into one-note anger.
Yes, the film has a rather down-beat tone that sometimes makes Matthew's loneliness painful to watch. But then this is essentially a story about how grief sometimes makes it difficult to see how others are feeling. And there are moments of joy along the way, as well as a number of existential themes that are explored beautifully int he dialog. Sometimes it takes a stranger to snap us out of our narrow-mindedness. And self-discovery takes a lifetime.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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