Its often witty dialogue parses like a John Guare play. It’s delightful ensemble atmosphere reminded me of the early films of Merchant-Ivory, Like “Shakespeare Wallah” or “Bombay Talkie” rather than the sumptuous and often rather serious films of their last few decades. A glamorous coda at the Madrid Opera recalls the opulence of later Merchant-Ivory productions.
Adapted from Peter Cameron’s novel by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the ambiance is Ivory-Merchant gold. It’s expats live in eccentric if impoverished splendor, worrying about funds but living for art or ethic concerns. Altogether a civilized look at our educated dying, international culture.
Meek hapless, handsome Omar (Omar Metwally) teaches at a university.
To get tenure he needs to publish his proposed biography of dead novelist Jules Gund, who published one vaunted novel then suicided.
Omar lives with domineering, maternal girlfriend Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara) who makes all of his decisions for him. When Gund’s relations and trustees turn down his proposal, Dierdre insists they go to Uruguay to talk them around. In his first act of self-sufficiency, he decides to travel alone, leaving his annoyed galpal at home.
Reaching Ochos Rios, the backwater estancia where Gund and his complex extended family hide out from the world, the reluctant hosts let him stay.
Gund’s gawky, waifish mistress Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and their young daughter Portia (Ambar Mallman) take an instant shine to him.
He seems like a handsome knight on a quest, come to their castle fastness.
They convince Gund’s steely widow Caroline (Laura Linney) to agree. Living in another house on the estate is Gund’s brother Adam (Anthony Hopkins) a romantic, elegant gentleman of leisure, who lives with his much younger, devoted paramour Pete (Hiroyuki Sanada), a Japanese man he adopted to bring to Uruguay.
The cast is at the top of their form. Gainsbourg and Metwally (“Rendition,”) are effervescent as the tentative lovers. Linney has never been better as the embittered doyenne, keeper of the flame ( and the secret last work of her suicided husband). Anthony Hopkins is splendid, turning in a chic throw-away performance of unending charm. Argentine diva Norma Aleandro plays the local Society arbiter, full of flirtatious gossip. MUST SEE