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Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Harry Macqueen
prd Emily Morgan, Tristan Goligher
with Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, Pippa Haywood, Peter Macqueen, Nina Marlin, Ian Drysdale, Sarah Woodward, James Dreyfus, Lori Campbell, Daneka Charlotte Etchells, Halema Hussain, Julie Hannan
release US 29.Jan.21,
20/UK BBC 1h33
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Beautifully photographed by Dick Pope, this British drama unfolds as a travelogue both through the countryside and within a long-term relationship. It may have a few big topics at its centre, but it's a sensitive, intimate film brought to life in deeply felt performances from Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. Writer-director Harry Macqueen lets the story unfold in a refreshingly open-handed way, with added moments of unfiltered emotion.
Pianist Sam and novelist Tusker (Firth and Tucci) are driving around England in an old motorhome seeing people and places from their 20 years together, because Tusker has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. And Lilly and Clive (Haywood and Macqueen) surprise them with a party. Meanwhile, Sam realises that Tusker sees this as a farewell tour before taking his own life. And while Sam feels that caring for Tusker until the end is the only thing he has left to live for, Tusker argues that he doesn't want to steal the rest of Sam's life.
Punctuated by spectacular landscapes, this couple's story is told through conversations that overflow with warm wit and snappy banter. This echoes their decades together, and also informs the more painful discussions they have about their future. Even harder to watch is the way Sam is internalising his struggle against the long, slow loss of the person he loves. While Tusker maintains a matter-of-fact acceptance, Sam conceals his feelings, so each jolt hits him much more heavily. Some of these plot points feel a little pushy, but they still resonate strongly.
Both Firth and Tucci create intricately layered characters that bristle with humour and very deep feelings. Firth unflinchingly depicts Sam's repressed British approach, with his stiff upper lip and change-the-subject mentality. So he's rattled by Tusker's more straight-talking American attack. This inversion on the usual dementia drama lets Tucci add some unexpected complexity to his role. And their chemistry is remarkable simply because it's never over-egged; it's riveting to watch the joy and pain mingle in their eyes.
Because the character drama is so strong, this never becomes an issue movie about either dementia or homosexuality, even as it travels a familiar trajectory. While this couple's sexuality adds some thoughtful nuance, this is simply the story of two people who rely utterly on each other, coming to grips with the fact that their future isn't what they thought it would be. And even if the script is rather obvious about it, it's a moving reminder to cherish our sense of wonder and never stop asking questions.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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