The Carer

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Brian Cox will attend a screening of The Carer
"Though it is Cox's turn that grabs, it is Konig's that delights."

Sir Michael Gifford is a giant of the theatre, a footlight legend, played with aplomb (and some cribbed archive footage) by another giant of the theatre, Brian Cox. He's one of a pair of protagonists - he, the subject, she, the titular carer. That she is played by Coco Konig in a tremendous debut performance in a role that requires real strength of character acting. Her Dorottya is a student of the stage herself, but the dramas that follow her are as much of the archly prosaic as the proscenium arch.

Sir Michael is retired, not ageing well, and in need of a carer. Daughter Sophia has opinions, assistant Milly has concerns, dresser (now driver) Joseph has hopes. This non-nuclear family assembled around Cox and Konig is portrayed by a tremendous cast. Emilia Fox and Anna Chancellor as the women in Sir Michael's life who pre-date Dorottya's arrival have a difficult path to tread, and Karl Johnson's Joseph is one of a number of avuncular coves who populate this lovely little film.

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Sometimes the phrase 'old-fashioned' is a code for 'will appeal to older audiences' and that's true for this film. Though sometimes it's also technical, logistical - a focus on character through dialogue and keen observation, locations, even a brilliant use of Sir Roger Moore (as himself) are all part of something that is an exercise that avoids most of the pitfalls of nostalgia. There are newspaper headlines over the credits, it's that kind of exercise, but one that's well executed. It's an artificial reminiscence, to be sure, but its greatest strength is that it succeeds in creating a sense of person and place through performance that serves as testament to an actor who never who was. Lives both led and unled, careers yet to blossom and long past fruitfulness.

Cox is brilliant - young Cox in footage recognisable to any high school scholar of the Bard, old Cox as Gifford, watching himself as some different himself, remembering - both poor ghost and poor creature. There is some method madness in having lived in order to have lived, but this perhaps is a different school. Opposite him, Konig more than keeps pace.

The trio of writers includes veteran stage to screen producer Tom Kinninmont of Jeffrey Bernard's Unwell, presumably a draft from the (deceased) Gilbert Adair (Klimt, The Dreamers), and director Janos Edeleny whose only other feature, Prima Primavera, bears passing similarity to the Carer. Their efforts have produced something touching, charming, lovely, but credit for that must go to Cox and the assembled cast. "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue", and all that - these are not the town criers that Hamlet was afeared of. Though it is Cox's turn that grabs, it is Konig's that delights. Though that is to do disservice to the ensemble, the other players assembled on this stage. Covering the panoply, this is a film with surprises, sadnesses, and smiles aplenty. This is quality, of cast, script, and construction; those involved have taken care, and it shows.

Reviewed on: 05 Aug 2016
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An ageing actor strikes up a relationship with his Hungarian emigre carer.
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Director: János Edelényi

Writer: Gilbert Adair, János Edelényi, Tom Kinninmont

Starring: Brian Cox, Anna Chancellor, Emilia Fox, Coco König, Karl Johnson, Selina Cadell, Andrew Havill, Roger Moore, Richard Ridings, Andor Lukáts, Emily Bevan, Ruth Posner, Maitland Chandler, Adam Morris, Paul Bown

Year: 2016

Runtime: 89 minutes

Country: UK

Festivals:

EIFF 2016
SMHAFF 2016

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