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dir Janos Edelenyi
scr Gilbert Adair, Janos Edelenyi, Tom Kinninmont
prd Jozsef Berger, Steve Bowden, Charlotte Wontner
with Brian Cox, Coco Konig, Anna Chancellor, Emilia Fox, Karl Johnson, Selina Cadell, Andrew Havill, Roger Moore, Richard Ridings, Andor Lukats, Emily Bevan, Ruth Posner
release US Jan.16 psiff, UK 5.Aug.16
Do not go gentle into that good night: Cox and Konig
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Anchored by a thunderously entertaining performance by Brian Cox, this wry, witty film weaves Shakespearean verse into virtually every line as it grapples with big issues like mortality. And the film has a terrific kick in its message that we shouldn't allow age to slow us down: grab life with both hands as long as we can.
In his country estate, veteran actor Sir Michael (Cox) is refusing to go quietly while coping from Parkinson's. After dispatching a series of carers, young Hungarian Dorottya (Konig) wins him over with her sharp intelligence and blunt compassion. She's also an actress with Shakespearean experience, and the two concoct a plan to attend a critics' ceremony where Michael is receiving a life achievement award. But Michael's daughter Sophia (Fox) and his assistant Milly (Chancellor) think this is a terrible idea. Dorottya's only cohort in this plan is Michael's sardonic driver Joseph (Johnson).
This refreshingly low-key comedy-drama cleverly uses Shakespeare's words and themes to draw attention to important themes. While the plot itself is nothing new and characters are cut from the usual cliched cloths, the writing, directing and acting lift every scene. In other words, the joys in this film are beneath the surface: in the interaction between the characters, the resonant topics at play and the inventive use of familiar writings to highlight present-day issues.
Cox dives headlong into the role of a hammy thespian with a mastery of both verbal extravagance and well-timed pauses. He gives Michael a wonderfully mischievous twinkle that only barely obscures his frailty. And while all of his relationships are abrasive, they're also deeply felt. Cox's scenes with both Chancellor and Fox spark with decades of history: funny, intense and sometimes suddenly emotional. Both actresses hold their own with sharply defined characters. And newcomer Konig shines in an underplayed performance that combines offhanded honesty with with moving insight.
Sometimes the presence of William Shakespeare in every conversation feels somewhat overwritten. But it's so smartly scripted that audiences familiar with the words will thoroughly enjoy the playful use of them to illuminate ideas rarely addressed on screen. This is an engaging story about how retirees are often wrongly sidelined by society, using illness or weakness as an excuse to keep them out of the bustle. But the truth is that they have a lot to offer, and to learn. And we should stop hiding them out of view.
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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