City of Your Final Destination

THE CITY OF YOUR FINAL DESTINATION. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Omar Metwally, Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Directed by James Ivory.  Rated PG (Mild themes). 118 minutes.

At the time of directing this film, James Ivory was nearing eighty.  He has a fine body of work, from his films in India in the 1960s and 1970s, to his adaptations of the 1980s and 1990s (especially of novels by Henry James: The Europeans, The Bostonians, The Golden Bowl, and of E.M.Forster: A Room with a View, Maurice, Howard’s End), to his wider range of adaptations in later years.  However, many critics and audiences have found his style, and sumptuous re-creations of period, too old-fashioned as cinema.  The appropriate response is that his film-making follows classical styles.  For those who follow the tradition of mocking films as ‘Merchant-Ivory heritage films’, this adaptation of a novel by Peter Cameron will be just another film.  For those who have enjoyed Ivory’s talent for telling stories for adult audiences, 22 of them written by Ruth Prawer Jabvala over a period of 45 years, they will be interested in a range of different characters in an Uruguyan setting.

Omar, a young academic wants to write the biography of a one-novel success, a dead writer from Uruguay.  Pushed by his girlfriend, Deidre, he finds that the family refuses to give a clearance for his work.  He ventures into Uruguay and meets a strange community of family and friends and gets to know them, with the hope of persuading them.  The author’s older gay brother is in favour of the project.  The widow is definitely not.  The mistress, with her little daughter, is also not in favour.  The screenplay offers a lot of conversations, often delivered with some asperity.  There is also a great deal of detail of life in this secluded part of the world.  The enjoyment of the film is in responding to the characters and the performances, reflections on celebrity and privacy, as well as the development of the character of the young man.

Filmed in Argentina, there is a strong sense of the Latin American atmosphere, on the pampas, in the local towns, on the estate.

Omar Metwally is an attractive screen presence even when he is dilatory, over cautious and put upon by his girlfriend, (Alexandra Maria Lara is very good in alienating the characters and dominating Omar).  The author’s brother is played with some insouciance by Anthony Hopkins with Hiroyuki Sanada as Pete his longtime companion.  Laura Linney is haughtiness personified as Caroline, the widow.  Charlotte Gainsbourg is quite ingenuously charming as Arden, the mistress, who has fitted into this different world and lives for her little daughter.

A lot of surface gentility.  A lot of simmering passions and petty distrusts, although the film remains quite calm rather than passionate.  Not an Ivory masterpiece, but interesting and entertaining straightforward storytelling.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Potential Films

Out October 14 2010.

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