Brian Cox rages robustly and arrestingly towards the dying of the sunshine in “The Etruscan Smile,” an unabashedly formulaic but undeniably affecting coming-to-terms drama which will trigger as a lot discomfort as delight for many who acknowledge bits and items of their very own fathers (or themselves) within the cantankerous character Cox portrays so persuasively.
Primarily based on the novel “La Sonrisa Etrusca” by José Luis Sampedro, with the unique narrative transported from Milan to Scotland and San Francisco by co-writers Michael McGowan, Michael Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood, the movie focuses totally on Rory MacNeil (Cox), an irascible septuagenarian who initially appears content material to spend his twilight years on the distant Hebrides Island the place his household has lived for generations. Hassle is, he fears that, given his noticeably declining well being, he might not have a few years left. And he’ll be damned if he’s going to die earlier than Campbell (Clive Russell), the final remaining member of a household lengthy at loggerheads with the MacNeils, lastly succumbs to cirrhosis.
Partly to verify he will get the final giggle, and partly to go to Ian (JJ Feild), his estranged son, and Emily (Thora Birch), Ian’s spouse, Rory flies to San Francisco. You possibly can’t assist considering that, below totally different circumstances, a household reunion can be low on Rory’s checklist of priorities. However the circumstances are what they’re. And moreover, Ian and Emily simply occur to be pleasant with an excellent physician (Tim Matheson) whom Rory casually name-drops shortly after his arrival.
It’s hardly a spoiler to report that Rory will get some extraordinarily dangerous information after a battery of medical exams. Regardless of the most cancers prognosis, nevertheless, Rory is in no nice rush to settle unfinished enterprise with Ian, who left Scotland years earlier to just accept a university scholarship and, not by the way, keep away from the burden of sustaining a household feud. When push involves shove, Rory admits he views Ian as someway lower than an actual man. And he sees much more purpose to supply such a pitiless appraisal when he notices how Frank (Deal with Williams), Emily’s rich father, is control-freakishly reshaping Ian’s plans to graduate from sous chef to restaurateur.
And but, Rory seems nothing wanting enchanted as he performs, cuddles and in any other case interacts together with his toddler grandson Jamie. And after a few meet-cute encounters with Claudia (well-cast Rosanna Arquette), a years-younger museum curator, the prickly Scotsman reveals, if not precisely a delicate facet, then a willingness to be charming and courtly. Not in contrast to Jamie, Claudia really enjoys spending time with Rory. That’s, till she learns he’s operating out of time.
“The Etruscan Smile” sporadically recollects a number of earlier films about mending fences and taking possibilities earlier than the ultimate curtain falls. (“Travelling North,” the 1987 Australian drama directed by Carl Schultz and starring Leo McKern, is simply one of many apparent predecessors.) And it’s a bit too on the nostril with regards to discovering symbolism within the art work at Claudia’s museum. The movie’s title, like that of the novel earlier than it, refers back to the expressions on terra cotta statues that point out the potential for a contented demise.
In the meantime, co-directors Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun, working in live performance with their screenwriters, cagily keep away from the apparent in different areas. Rory would be the traditional fish out of water, together with his blunt-spoken garrulousness and proudly Scottish eccentricities (at one level, he truly wears a kilt to a proper gala) that make him an odd man out in well mannered San Francisco settings. However the film by no means pushes too far into farce, and stops effectively wanting “Coming to America” or “Crocodile Dundee” extremes.
The face-offs between Rory and Ian usually are purposefully unsettling of their uncooked emotion, with every man showing decided to re-open outdated wounds. (It’s no small credit score to his expertise that, even when Ian backs down, Feild adamantly refuses to be blown off the display by Cox.) However, once more, the filmmakers evince restraint: They refuse to inform us all the pieces concerning the troubled previous shared by father and son, thereby enhancing the story’s universality.
This might simply as simply be a story about, say, a younger Irishmen who left Dublin and fled to America to disengage from his household’s IRA connections. Or, on the different excessive, it could possibly be a few farmer’s son who moved to the town just because he felt he wasn’t lower out to make a dwelling off the land. Both approach, it could nonetheless be a narrative a few father who’s by no means gotten over his son’s refusal to be for him what he was for his personal dad. And about that father’s unrelenting efforts to deliver his son — or, failing that, his grandson — again dwelling.
Cox, a brilliantly versatile actor whose prolonged résumé contains all the pieces from the unique Hannibal Lecter in “Manhunter” to the soft-hearted hardcase of a bar proprietor in “The Good Coronary heart,” has just lately develop into one thing of a family title due to his mesmerizing portrayal of getting old however unbowed media mogul Logan Roy on HBO’s “Succession.” The elevation of his profile as a consequence of that present is probably going the principle purpose why “The Etruscan Smile” has lastly gotten a U.S. launch after a prolonged interval of festival-hopping and abroad exhibition. (The film bears a 2017 copyright.)
Due to the New Regular dictated by COVID-19, nevertheless, the discharge will probably be a hybrid of theatrical and VOD. Beginning this weekend, and persevering with by means of Could 31, audiences should purchase $12 “digital tickets” to view “The Etruscan Smile” at dwelling, with 50% of the proceeds going to brick-and-mortar theaters collaborating in this system.